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Firearms, Ammunition & Explosives

2 South Texas men plead guilty to exporting ammunition to Mexico

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Two South Texas men pleaded guilty on Tuesday to illegally exporting about 3,000 rounds of ammunition to Mexico without a license, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Guillermo Enrique Villarreal, 37, of Brownsville, and Leoncio Sanchez, a U.S. citizen living in Matamoros, pleaded guilty on Jan. 31 to exporting defense articles without a license before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen.

The charges against Villarreal and Sanchez arose when ATF agents spotted the two men leaving a McAllen Academy Sports & Outdoors store after purchasing about 3,000 rounds of 7.62 x 39mm ammunition. ATF reported the information to HSI special agents who began an investigation of the two men. They discovered that Villarreal and Sanchez had purchased about 4,000 rounds of ammunition just four days earlier.

On Dec. 12, 2011, HSI special agents continued their surveillance when they were notified that Villarreal and Sanchez entered the United States at Brownsville, Texas. The special agents watched as the defendants purchased about 10,000 rounds of ammunition at the Academy stores in Brownsville, Weslaco and Edinburg, Texas. HSI agents saw the defendants return to Brownsville. Later, special agents approached Villarreal and Sanchez and received consent to search the pickup at which time the ammunition was found hidden in the cab of the pickup they were driving.

Weapons and ammunition cannot be exported without a license. Both Villarreal and Sanchez admitted to exporting ammunition to Mexico without a license for a fee.

Both have been in custody where they will remain pending their sentencing hearing, which is set for May 7. At that time, they face up to 20 years imprisonment, followed by a maximum of three years of supervised release in addition to a fine of up to $1 million.

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Joseph Leonard and Karen Betancourt, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.