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07/09/2009

Weapons smuggler sentenced to 57 months in prison

ICE investigation tied Mexican national to more than 200 illegally exported weapons

EL PASO, Texas - A Mexican man was sentenced to nearly five years in prison Wednesday after an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tied him to more than 200 firearms smuggled illegally into Mexico.

Begmar Ivan Ruiz-Zuniga, 31, a Mexican citizen, was sentenced to 57 months in prison by a U.S. district judge. Ruiz-Zuniga must also forfeit 11 AK-47 assault rifles, one upper receiver for an AR-15 assault rifle, two military-style bayonets, ballistic body armor, military equipment and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Ruiz-Zuniga and another man, Miguel Angel Dominguez, 25, were charged with weapons violations after ICE agents arrested them in December 2008. Both later pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally export firearms and ammunition to Mexico. Dominguez, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced in June to 10 months in prison.

The investigation was spearheaded by ICE with the assistance of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the El Paso Police Department and the El Paso Sheriff's Office.

"Stopping the flow of weapons illegally exported into Mexico is an urgent priority for ICE," said Manuel Oyola-Torres, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in El Paso. "By putting weapons smugglers behind bars, ICE, ATF and our other law enforcement partners help cut the supply of firearms to drug cartels that pose a threat both here and abroad."

ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael A. Golson Sr. said, "The ATF and ICE connected Ruiz to a long-term, on-going ATF investigation supported by ICE. This case shows the continuing cooperation between ATF and ICE to combat the illegal trafficking of firearms into Mexico. ATF, with ICE, will continue to use its expertise to stop the flow of firearms to Mexican drug cartels."