EL PASO, Texas — Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) early Monday arrested the former owner of the largest supplier of law enforcement gear, supplies and ammunition in the Southwest.
Hector Ayala, 48, former owner of Uniforms of Texas, is charged in connection with a scheme to smuggle ammunition and other prohibited items into Mexico. A federal grand jury indictment – returned April 18 and unsealed April 23 – charges Ayala with two counts of facilitating the smuggling of goods from the United States, two counts of illegally exporting ballistic vests and high-capacity ammunition magazines without a license, and two counts of money laundering.
The indictment alleges that from Sept. 1, 2009, to Dec. 3, 2011, and knowing that prohibited items were intended to be exported into Mexico, Ayala concealed and facilitated transporting multiple calibers and quantities of ammunition, about 300 high-capacity ammunition magazines and drums, and about 800 ballistic vests with ceramic plates.
It also alleges that during that same period, Ayala conducted financial transactions with proceeds derived from the sale of ammunition, magazines and ballistic vests. On multiple occasions, Ayala structured cash transactions in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid financial reporting requirements.
Ayala is scheduled to have his initial appearance April 24 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert F. Castañeda. If convicted, Ayala faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each of the money laundering charges, and up to 10 years imprisonment on each of the remaining charges.
"HSI vigorously investigates and enforces criminal violations of all U.S. export laws related to munitions," said Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso. "By preventing weapons and munitions to be illegally exported to Mexico, HSI and its law enforcement partners are protecting public safety and national security."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the El Paso Police Department assisted in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McDonald, Western District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.
It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.