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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit

2 south Texas men sentenced to years in prison for smuggling ammo to Mexico

Defendants purchased ammo from local sporting goods stores

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Two local men living in Mexico were sentenced to years in federal prison Tuesday for 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), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Guillermo Enrique Villarreal, 37, and Leoncio Sanchez, 22, both U.S. citizens living in Matamoros, Mexico, were sentenced to federal prison for exporting defense articles without a license. U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen sentenced Villarreal and Sanchez to 31 and 57 months in prison, respectively. Both will also serve a three-year-term of supervised release after they complete their respective sentences.

According to court documents, the charges against Villarreal and Sanchez arose when ATF agents spotted the two men leaving an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in McAllen, Texas, after they purchased about 3,000 rounds of 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition, which is used for assault rifles. ATF reported the information to HSI special agents who began an investigation of the two men. HSI's investigation revealed that Villarreal and Sanchez had also purchased about 4,000 rounds of ammunition just four days earlier.

On Dec. 12, 2011, HSI special agents were notified that Villarreal and Sanchez entered the United States at Brownsville at which time special agents began surveillance, and watched as both men purchased about 10,000 rounds of ammunition at the Academy stores in Brownsville, Weslaco and Edinburg, Texas. HSI special agents also witnessed them return to Brownsville to hide the ammunition in the cab of the pickup they were driving. Later, special agents approached Villarreal and Sanchez and received consent to search the pickup at which time the ammunition was found.

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 since their arrest. They will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

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