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05/01/2013

Former south Texas police officer sentenced on gun charges

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A former south Texas police officer was sentenced Wednesday to 60 months in federal prison for conspiring to export firearms and failure to appear, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Armando Duenez, 31, from Rio Hondo, Texas, appeared May 1 before U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle, who accepted the guilty plea. Duenez was sentenced to 60 months for the firearms charge and 60 months for failing to appear as ordered. A portion of the sentences will be served consecutively for a total sentence of 64 months. Duenez was further ordered to serve three years of supervised release following completion of the prison term.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Tagle also ordered Duenez to perform 150 hours of community service upon his release from prison. Duenez, who pleaded guilty Jan. 30, was employed as a police officer with the Rio Hondo Police Department during the offense.

According to court documents, the former officer entered into an agreement with others to export weapons from the United States to Mexico. Duenez admitted to working with Raymond Martinez, formerly a member of the Palm Valley Police Department, to buy firearms and sell them for a profit to individuals who intended to smuggle them to Mexico.

Duenez admitted to purchasing more than 15 semi-automatic rifles that were later sold in Mexico. The rifles were all capable of accepting high capacity magazines. The investigation began when weapons recovered in Mexico were traced back to him.

Martinez was also convicted of dealing in firearms without a license and later sentenced to federal prison.

Duenez was arrested for the firearms offense in July 2008. After being released on bond, Duenez fled to Mexico and failed to appear for his arraignment. He remained in Mexico until he surrendered to the U.S. Marshals Service in December 2012.

Duenez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Hagen, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.