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November 29, 2016Laredo, TXUnited StatesContraband

2 sentenced in South Texas to at least 5 years in federal prison for firearms trafficking to Mexico

LAREDO, Texas — A Laredo man and a Mexican woman were sentenced Tuesday to seven and five years in federal prison, respectively, for their roles in trafficking firearms to a Mexican drug cartel.

These sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabacco, Firearms and Explosives, and with the assistance of the Laredo Police Department and Webb County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office.

Claudia Raquel Herrera-Ibarra, 35, of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Jonathan James Ruiz, 24, of Laredo, were sentenced to 60 and 84 months imprisonment, respectively, by U.S. District Judge Mariana Garcia Marmolego. At the hearing, Herrera-Ibarra asked the court for a lower sentence, claiming she was a minor participant who took orders from cartel members in Mexico. Judge Marmolejo noted that Herrera-Ibarra had recruited others to buy firearms for her and demonstrated a high level of sophistication in her operation. The court further commented that the acts of both defendants directly affected the citizens of Mexico as well as the people of the United States. Ruiz will also serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.  Herrera-Ibarra is expected to face deportation proceedings after she completes her prison sentence.

Herrera-Ibarra admitted to being an illegal alien who unlawfully possessed firearms. Ruiz pleaded guilty to making false statements to purchase firearms. Both pleaded guilty to their charges July 14.

According to court documents, both defendants had previously admitted to unlawfully conspiring with each other and others to fraudulently and knowingly acquire assault rifles and pistols in the United States to smuggle to Mexico. Herrera-Ibarra hired Ruiz and others to purchase civilian versions of military assault rifles and pistols between Dec. 13, 2015, and March 19, 2016, from various firearms stores in Laredo. She then illegally smuggled or hired others to smuggle the firearms to associates in Mexico who solicited the firearms. These associates were primarily members of the Los Zetas criminal organization operating in Mexico.

Herrera-Ibarra paid Ruiz between $150 and $400 for buying each firearm. Ruiz admitted he ultimately bought 25 firearms for her and that he had falsely certified on each firearms form that he was the actual purchaser of the weapons.

Herrera-Ibarra was arrested April 1, 2015, in the parking lot of a sporting goods store in north Laredo after receiving two AR-15 semi-automatic rifles from an undercover agent whom she had hired and paid to buy the firearms. Herrera-Ibarra acquired at least 27 firearms which she smuggled to Mexico. At least two firearms were intercepted during this investigation prior to being exported to Mexico.

Herrera-Ibarra remains in federal custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Ruiz was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined at a later date.

Omar Rolando Castillo, 30, another co-conspirator named in a separate indictment, has also pleaded guilty and is pending sentencing before U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaña.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose Homero Ramirez, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case. 

Updated: 12/02/2016