MCALLEN, Texas - Two illegal aliens from Mexico were sentenced on Thursday to federal prison for their roles in attempting to export munitions from the United States without a license, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Sergio Perez-Contreas, 72, was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment, while Jose Jesus Miramontes-Duarte, 59, received a 30-month sentence by Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa during a hearing held on Thursday. Both defendants were convicted of attempting to export munitions without a license in June 2010 after pleading guilty to the felony offense.
According to court documents, the convictions and sentences stem from an investigation by ICE HSI agents. On March 5, 2009, they observed Perez-Contreras leaving the business of a local federal firearms licensee (FFL) with several packages. He then entered a taxi, and ultimately arrived at a warehouse in south McAllen. Once he arrived at the warehouse, Perez-Contreras met with Miramontes-Duarte and transferred the packages from the taxi to the cab of a tractor trailer driven by Miramontes-Duarte. Perez-Contreras then left in the taxi and ultimately arrived at the Hidalgo, Texas, Port of Entry.
At the port of entry, Perez-Contreras was stopped by ICE HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents as he attempted to depart the United States. In his possession, Perez-Contreras had a receipt for the purchase of 5,000 small pistol primers, 1,400 large pistol primers, 1,100 assorted calibers of rifle bullets, 19 pounds of smokeless power, and two rifle barrel blanks from the FFL where he had been seen earlier in the day. With these munitions, about 7500 rounds of pistol and rifle ammunition could be manufactured.
Meanwhile, Miramontes-Duarte left the warehouse area and was seen driving to another location where he rearranged the firearms parts and ammunition components in the cab of his truck. When Miramontes-Duarte attempted to depart the United States through the Pharr, Texas, Port of Entry, he was also stopped by ICE HSI agents and CBP officers. The ammunition components for which his co-defendant had the receipt were discovered in the cab of his truck. Further investigation revealed that Perez-Contreras had illegally exported munitions 12 other times.
Both Perez-Contreras and Miramontes-Duarte have been in federal custody without bond since their arrest on March 5, 2009. They will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility where they will serve out their sentences.
Perez-Contreras and Miramontes-Duarte are subject to deportation after they complete their prison sentences. The court has further ordered each man to serve a two-year-term of supervised release. These conditions will be enforceable if either man returns to the United States, even illegally. If they fail to abide by any condition, an additional prison sentence may be added.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Schammel, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.