SAN ANTONIO — Three firearms smugglers were sentenced Thursday to lengthy federal prison terms in connection with a scheme to traffic and straw purchase AK-47 assault-type firearms destined for Mexico.
These sentences were announced by Robert Pitman, Western District of Texas. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Of the three defendants, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia sentenced the organization's ringleader, Jimmy Torres, 28, from Mexico, to 15 years in prison. Torres pleaded guilty in November 2012 to the following charges: one count of possession of a firearm by an individual with a domestic violence conviction; one count of possession of a firearm by an illegal alien; and 31 counts of aiding and abetting, to include making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.
Judge Garcia also sentenced Torres' co-defendants, Ramon Ernesto-Armijo, 30, and Mathew Arteaga, 27, both from San Antonio, to 60 months and 50 months in federal prison, respectively. Both pleaded guilty to multiple counts of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.
According to court documents, the defendants admitted to participating in a scheme from November 2011 to January 2012 whereby about 40 AK-47 assault-type firearms were straw-purchased from several San Antonio-area gun stores. The investigation revealed that the straw-purchased firearms were destined for Mexico.
Also sentenced on Thursday was Juanita Arteaga, 25 and Virgina Ricarte-Jones, 39, both of San Antonio. Each received two years' probation after they pleaded guilty last September to making false statements during the purchase of a firearm.
Prior to Thursday's court hearing, 13 other individuals have received sentences ranging from probation to five years in federal prison in connection with this scheme.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bettina J. Richardson, Western District of Texas, prosecuted this case.