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03/15/2011

Former south Texas sheriff's deputy sentenced for weapons smuggling

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - A former Cameron County sheriff's deputy was sentenced on Monday to four years and nine months in prison for smuggling weapons into Mexico in exchange for money, announced U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in coordination with the FBI and Cameron County Sheriff's Office.

Jesus A. Longoria, 31, of Brownsville, Texas, was sentenced to 57 months imprisonment by U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle on March 14. In addition to his sentence, the judge ordered Longoria to pay a $10,000 fine.

Longoria pleaded guilty to the federal felony charge on Dec. 17. According to this plea, Longoria admitted that on May 5, 2010, while he was assigned to the Veterans' and Gateway Ports of Entry to prevent stolen vehicles from leaving the United States, he attempted to send and export 13 semi-automatic firearms into Mexico.

According to court records, Longoria contacted the driver of a vehicle containing 13 semi-automatic weapons via cellular telephone to instruct him when he could cross into Mexico without inspection by state and federal authorities. Longoria did not know that the driver of the load vehicle was actually an undercover federal agent (UC). When the load vehicle driven by the UC arrived at the bridge, Longoria, while standing at the federal inspection station, waived the vehicle through the inspection area and directed the vehicle to enter Mexico via the Veteran's Bridge.

Longoria admitted he knew the vehicle contained firearms and the driver did not have a license or legal permission to export firearms. He believed the firearms were unlawful for export and were intended for use by a Mexican drug cartel. In return for allowing these weapons to be illegally exported, Longoria accepted payment of $4,000. The vehicle was intercepted before entering into Mexico and the weapons were recovered.

Longoria was arrested on Nov. 1, and he has remained in jail without bond. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hagen, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.