EAGLE PASS, Texas — Two southwest Texas brothers were sentenced Tuesday for smuggling more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition and hundreds of firearms magazines into Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman, Western District of Texas.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in conjunction with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Richard Hesles Jr, 34, and Damien Hesles, 24, of Eagle Pass, Texas, appeared before U.S. District Judge Alia Moses who sentenced the brothers Jan. 28. Richard was sentenced to 10 years; his brother Damien was sentenced to nine years and two months. Aside from their sentences, Judge Moses ordered Richard to pay a $7,500 fine. His brother Damien was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. Both brothers must also serve three years of supervised release after they complete their prison terms.
Judge Moses also ordered Richard and Damien Hesles to pay monetary judgments of $54,414 and $42,634, respectively. Those sums represent the value of property involved or used to facilitate the defendants' scheme. On Oct. 25, 2013, the defendants pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the smuggling of goods from the United States.
"Gun and drug trafficking fuels violence by criminal organizations domestically and abroad," said Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala, HSI San Antonio. "HSI special agents will continue working jointly with our law enforcement partners and utilize our expertise in export enforcement to keep our citizens safe and secure."
According to court documents, on Feb. 17, 2012, agents were working surveillance at the Hesles Gun and Knife Store when Damien Hesles unloaded several boxes from his vehicle. Those boxes were subsequently loaded into another vehicle which began traveling towards the U.S. Mexico border. When the driver of that vehicle noticed he was being followed, he stopped the vehicle and discarded the boxes inside a dumpster, then fled the area. Inside the boxes, agents discovered U.S. defense articles, including 100 AR-15 assault rifle rear tactical sights, and 100 AR-15 assault rifle front tactical sights.
HSI special agents learned that Piedras Negras, Mexico, residents Oliver Bres-Carranza and Erik Alan Garza had spoken to Richard Hesles Jr. to order the AR-15 sights. Damien Hesles received payment from Bres-Carranza and Garza for the sights, and then shared the money with his brother.
Authorities also estimate that the brothers aided and abetted the export or attempted export of the following items: more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition for AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, and .50-caliber sniper rifles; more than 300 assault rifle magazines, and more than 60 magazines for other types of firearms; and, firearms sights.
During court testimony, both brothers admitted that they procured ammunition, firearm magazines and firearm sights for individuals in Mexico from 2010 until 2012. They also admitted that Richard Hesles Jr. knew that the items were going to Los Zetas drug cartel operatives in Mexico.
The brothers, along with the store owner, entered into an agreement with the government to surrender their Federal Firearms License. They also agreed to no longer support or fund, directly or indirectly, any business or venture which deals in any manner with the sale, trade or distribution of firearms, ammunition, magazines and/or components/accessories related to the firearms trade.
On Jan. 15, Erik Alan Garza was sentenced to 44 months in federal prison and fined $3,000 for his participation in the smuggling scheme.
Bres-Carranza, who remains in custody, faces up to 10 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in October 2013 to his role in the smuggling scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25 before Judge Moses.
A fifth defendant in this case, Rolando Tamayo, was released on bond following his arrest in June 2012, but is now considered a fugitive.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Galdo, Western District of Texas, prosecuted this case.