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Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives
12/06/2016

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Federal authorities arrest, charge 6 suspects for possessing hand grenades

MCALLEN, Texas — A total of six individuals remain in custody following their arrest on Tuesday after a criminal complaint was filed alleging the illegal receipt or possession of destructive devices that were not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

These arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.  This investigation was led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Those arrested include Celin Javier Montoya, 23, Anthony Ozuna, 20, Alfredo Rivera, 24, and Pedro Vega, 40, all of Edinburg, Texas; Noe Gonzalez, 19, of San Juan, Texas; and Jonathan Sanchez-Torres, 19, an illegal alien from Mexico who was residing in Pharr, Texas.

On Tuesday, Vega appeared before U.S. Magistrate B. Janice Ellington in Corpus Christi, Texas, who charged him with receiving or possessing destructive devices. Judge Ellington remanded him back to custody pending a custody hearing scheduled for Dec. 9, 2016. On Wednesday, Montoya, who was arrested in Ingleside, Texas, will appear before a federal judge in Corpus Christi; the remaining defendants are expected in court Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby.

The criminal complaint was filed Dec. 5, 2016, and unsealed Tuesday following the arrests. The complaint alleges Ozuna and Rivera were attempting to broker the sale of improvised hand grenades or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The two men were allegedly acting on behalf of Montoya and Vega. According to the charges, from Nov. 5 to 11, ATF and HSI special agents conducted undercover operations and bought all the hand grenades Montoya and Vega had available.

During the course of this investigation, ATF and HSI special agents discovered Montoya and Vega allegedly obtained the grenades from Gonzalez and Sanchez-Torres. The complaint also alleges that for about six months, Gonzalez purchased from a combination of online merchants and local stores all the components necessary to construct dozens of improvised hand grenades, including grenade hulls, spring kits, fuses and black powder. The assembled “live” hand grenades were then turned over to Sanchez-Torres to be distributed, according to the allegations.

Each defendant is charged with illegally receiving or possessing a destructive device that is not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. If convicted, they each face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Paxton and Linda Requenez, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.

A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 12/07/2016