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Firearms, Ammunition & Explosives

South Texas man sentenced to more than 3 years in federal prison for attempting to smuggle nearly 12,000 rounds of assault-rifle ammunition to Mexico

LAREDO, Texas — A local man was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for facilitating the attempted smuggling of nearly 12,000 rounds of assault rifle ammunition, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol, and the Laredo Police Department also assisted.

Luis Garcia-Ugarte, 38, was sentenced Feb. 19 to three years and five months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty to the charges Aug. 28, 2013.

"This sentencing sends a clear message to individuals who purchase, transport, or facilitate the attempted smuggling of weapons, ammunition and other related items. Preventing these items from being acquired from or delivered to the wrong hands is a top priority for Homeland Security Investigations," said Janice Ayala special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. "We will continue working with our domestic and international law enforcement partners in this effort."

According to testimony, authorities learned that an individual was to purchase and provide to Garcia-Ugarte 1,500 rounds of 7.62x39mm assault rifle ammunition on Oct. 10, 2012. Federal and local authorities conducted surveillance and observed Garcia-Ugarte arrive driving a small sedan, as scheduled, at a Wal-Mart store parking lot in Laredo.

After obtaining the ammunition, Garcia-Ugarte left the parking lot and was pulled over by a Laredo Police Department (LPD) patrol officer for a traffic violation. The officer reported Garcia-Ugarte spoke only Spanish and did not possess a driver's license or any identification.

A search of the vehicle's trunk resulted in discovering an additional 8,160 rounds of assault rifle ammunition (7.62x39mm and .223-caliber). Garcia-Ugarte claimed that none of the 9,660 rounds of ammunition belonged to him. He later recanted and admitted transporting the ammunition in his car. He also admitted that he was to later transport other ammunition from his home to Mexican truck drivers who would attempt to illegally smuggle it into Mexico. Agents discovered an additional 2,318 rounds of 7.62x39mm assault rifle ammunition at his residence. A total of 11,978 rounds of ammunition was discovered and seized. All the ammunition was intercepted before it reached smugglers.

Garcia-Ugarte was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jose Homero Ramirez and James B. Hepburn, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.