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Firearms, Ammunition & Explosives

3 sentenced for 'straw-purchasing' and exporting 101 firearms to Mexico

MCALLEN, Texas – Three men were sentenced on Tuesday for making false sworn statements on federal forms to buy firearms from federal firearms licensees and then export those firearms to Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This case was investigated jointly by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa sentenced Oscar Bravo-Hernandez, 40, a U.S. permanent resident living in Falcon Heights, Texas, to seven years in prison. Luis Javier Lira Jr., 34, and Jose Macedonio Castillo, 35, both U.S. citizens residing in Mexico, were each sentenced to 46 months. In addition to their sentences, all three will also serve a two-year term of supervised release. Bravo-Hernandez pleaded guilty to unlawfully exporting munitions. Lira and Castillo each pleaded guilty to making false sworn statements on the required ATF forms to buy the firearms from federal firearms licensees. This practice is commonly referred to as straw purchasing.

According to court documents, ATF agents discovered that Lira and Castillo had been purchasing large numbers of the type of firearms highly desired by the Mexican drug cartels. Over a three-month period, Lira purchased 22 firearms and Castillo purchased 14 firearms. All those firearms were then transferred to Bravo-Hernandez after purchase. Bravo-Hernandez admitted he traveled to Mexico to obtain money and orders to buy the firearms. He then bought the firearms and illegally exported them to Mexico to deliver to individuals there. Bravo-Hernandez further admitted that his wife and other family members were also involved in this criminal enterprise.

During sentencing, the court noted that 101 firearms attributable to Bravo-Hernandez were smuggled to Mexico. He also had directly or indirectly recruited at least five individuals in both this and a related case. The people he recruited straw purchased firearms so that Bravo-Hernandez could then have them illegally exported to Mexico.

All the defendants have been held in federal custody without bond since they were arrested. 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. Attorney Steven Schammel, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.