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Contraband
05/23/2012

South Texas man sentenced to nearly 8 years for trafficking firearms, ammo and military vests

MCALLEN, Texas – A south Texas man was sentenced to seven years and 11 months in federal prison for trafficking firearms, ammunition and military vests, following an investigation that began in May 2010, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The 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 (ATF).

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez further ordered that Juan Ricardo Puente-Paez, a U.S. permanent resident alien residing in Peñitas, Texas, also serve three years of supervised release.

Puente-Paez, 34, pleaded guilty Feb. 29 to attempting to export military-specification body armor vests.

According to court documents, on May 11, 2010, federal agents conducted a traffic stop at the Hidalgo (Texas) Port of Entry on a vehicle heading into Mexico. The driver of the vehicle was identified as Carlos Javier Paez-Renteria and his passenger as Juan Ricardo Puente-Paez. During a search of the vehicle, agents found four military interceptor body armor vests. Neither was arrested during the traffic stop.

On Jan. 16, 2011, a police officer working at the San Juan Police Department conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle as it left a residence on the 2700 block of Fern Street in San Juan. The driver was again identified as Paez-Renteria. During a search of the vehicle, agents found 39 Max-Pro Police and Armor Level ballistic helmets and 24 pairs of original Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) tactical boots. Police officers then obtained consent to search the Fern Street residence, at which time agents discovered 29 more Max-Pro Police and Armor Level ballistic helmets, 36 more pairs of original SWAT tactical boots, one .22-caliber Mossberg International automatic rifle, 26 high-capacity AK-type rifle magazines, 103 rounds of .223-caliber ammunition, 450 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition, and 166 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition. The subsequent investigation revealed these items were going to be smuggled into Mexico.

Three months later, on April 15, a pick-up truck driven by Alfonso Torres was stopped as it attempted to leave the United States at the Hidalgo Port of Entry. During an inspection of the pick-up truck, agents found 11 semi-automatic rifles and 11 high-capacity rifle magazines.

Then on June 6, San Juan police conducted another traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Miguel Avendano-Reyna. During a search of the vehicle, agents found 1,700 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition. The investigation again revealed the ammunition was going to be smuggled into Mexico.

Last month, Avendano-Reyna, 36, and Alfonso Torres, 42, were sentenced to 30 and 24 months in prison, respectively. Paez-Renteria, 22, is scheduled for sentencing on June 12 before Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anibal J. Alaniz, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.