HOUSTON – A Baytown, Texas, man was sentenced on Monday to eight years and four months in federal prison for illegally exporting firearms, one of which was used to murder an ICE special agent in 2011. This sentence was announced by: U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Robert Rutt with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston and Acting Special Agent in Charge Gary Orchowski of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Manuel Gomez Barba, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of exporting firearms on Oct. 31, 2011. On Jan. 30, he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes to 100 months imprisonment which is to run consecutively with a 108-month sentence he received for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine in a case prosecuted by the Eastern District of Texas.
Barba could not legally buy firearms due to being on deferred adjudication for two felony drug offenses from Harris County, Texas. Instead, Barba recruited individuals, known as straw buyers, to buy numerous AK-47-type semi-automatic firearms. Barba informed the buyers that the firearms would not be traced back to them since the serial numbers would be obliterated before sending them to Mexico. Once the straw buyers bought the firearms and transferred them to him, Barba facilitated the transfer of the weapons to individuals who transported them to Mexico for use by the Zetas Drug Cartel.
One of the firearms which Barba facilitated to Mexico was used by the Zetas in a shooting on Feb. 15, 2011, which resulted in the death of HSI special agent Jaime Zapata and serious wounding of a second HSI special agent. It was determined through ballistic testing of the shell casings and the raising of the obliterated serial number that one of the firearms used in the shooting was bought at J&J's Pawn Shop in Beaumont, Texas. Once bought, the firearm, along with nine other guns, were transferred to Barba to be exported to Mexico. In total, Barba, who did not have a license to export firearms, was responsible for exporting 44 firearms to Mexico.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.