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Firearms, Ammunition & Explosives

Former south Texas police officer pleads guilty to gun-trafficking charges

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A former Rio Hondo, Texas, police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to illegally export firearms and failure to appear, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Armando Duenez, 31, who pleaded guilty Jan. 30, was employed as a police officer with the Rio Hondo Police Department during the offense.

According to court documents, the former officer entered into an agreement with others to illegally export weapons from the United States to Mexico. Duenez admitted working with Raymond Martinez, formerly a member of the Palm Valley Police Department, to buy firearms and sell them for a profit to individuals who intended to smuggle them to Mexico. Duenez admitted purchasing more than 15 semi-automatic rifles that were later sold in Mexico. The rifles were all capable of accepting high-capacity ammunition magazines. The investigation began when the weapons recovered in Mexico were traced back to him. Martinez was also convicted of dealing in firearms without a license and later sentenced to federal prison.

Duenez was arrested for the firearms offense in July 2008. After being released on bond, Duenez fled to Mexico and failed to appear for his arraignment. He remained in Mexico until he surrendered to the U.S. Marshals Service in December 2012.

U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle, who accepted the guilty plea, set sentencing for May 1. At that time Duenez faces up to five years in federal prison on each of the charges, and a possible $250,000 fine.

Duenez will remain in custody pending his sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Hagen, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.