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Contraband
12/29/2010

ICE arrests 3, seizes 28,000 rounds of ammunition in Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. - Three men are facing federal weapons smuggling charges after they were arrested with more than 28,000 rounds of ammunition by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tuesday in Tucson.

Nogales-based HSI special agents investigating a weapons smuggling operation identified a Tucson residence in the 1500 block of West Aztec Court believed to be tied to the scheme. Agents set up surveillance on the house and observed a white minivan leave the residence and proceed southbound toward Nogales, Ariz. HSI agents then coordinated with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) to conduct a traffic stop based on probable cause developed by the DPS officer.

The van's occupants consented to allow a search of the vehicle, which revealed 9,240 rounds of ammunition of various calibers. As a result, Alejandro Ruiz-Escalante, 23, and Christian Gallegos-Arizmendi, 19, both citizens of Mexico, were arrested on federal weapons smuggling charges.

"Weapons smuggling along the Southwest border clearly contributes to ongoing public safety challenges in Mexico," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Arizona. "One of my top priorities is working with law enforcement partners like DPS to stem the flow of weapons and ammunition south of the border."

Based on information developed from the traffic stop, agents applied for and received a search warrant for the Tucson residence. The ICE Arizona Special Response Team served a search warrant on the property late Tuesday evening. Inside, agents discovered and seized an additional 19,750 rounds of ammunition, one .223 semi-automatic rifle and two .22 caliber rifles.

HSI agents arrested Jesus Lopez, 35, a U.S. citizen with an extensive criminal history and outstanding warrants for domestic violence and drug possession, at the residence. Lopez is also facing federal weapons charges. All three suspects had their initial appearance in federal court in Tucson Wednesday.

A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The 9,240 rounds of ammunition recovered from the van included:

  • 4,000 rounds of .223 cal
  • 2,240 rounds of 7.62 cal
  • 1,000 rounds of 9 mm
  • 1,000 rounds of .38 super
  • 500 rounds of .45 cal
  • 500 rounds of .40 cal

The 19,750 rounds of ammunition recovered from the residence included:

  • 4,000 rounds of .223 cal
  • 6,000 rounds of 7.62 cal
  • 3,000 rounds of .38 super
  • 2,750 rounds of .45 cal
  • 3,500 rounds of 9 mm
  • 500 rounds of .40 cal