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5 south Texas residents plead guilty to federal firearms charges

LAREDO, Texas — Five Laredo residents pleaded guilty Wednesday to making false statements in connection with firearms purchases from local gun stores, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This case is being investigated 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), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol.

According to testimony presented March 6, the following five Laredo residents each purchased semi-automatic assault rifles for other persons who would smuggle them into Mexico: Gloria Esther Almanza, 39, Calixto Javier Cardenas, 23, Carlos Picazio, 30, and Alejandro Rivera-Ruiz, 48. They all pleaded guilty to making false statements on ATF Form 4473, a crime which is commonly known as "straw purchasing." Mexican national Oswaldo Rafael Borrego-Ramos, aka "Baldo," 31, of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, admitted recruiting the defendants directly or through others. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements in acquiring firearms.

According to court documents, the indictment alleges that the conspiracy began in October 2010. Over the course of 15 months, the five defendants acquired at least 23 pistols and semi-automatic assault rifles. The federal investigation involved historical purchases made by these defendants and others from various stores in Laredo.

U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia-Marmolejo accepted the guilty pleas March 6 and set sentencing for June 5. The five defendants each face a maximum of five years in federal prison, and a possible $250,000 fine. Borrego-Ramos and Rivera-Ruiz are currently serving federal prison sentences of 78 months and 52 months, respectively, for smuggling ammunition and ammunition magazines into Mexico. They and Picazio will remain in federal custody pending sentencing in this case, while Almanza and Cardenas were permitted to remain on bond.

Picazio was also named in another indictment along with Robert Jacaman Sr. and Veronica Jacaman in a smuggling charge involving 9,500 rounds of ammunition. Picazio is presumed innocent of that charge until proven guilty, as are the Jacamans.

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