FRESNO, Calif. – A 47-year-old Fresno-area man has pleaded guilty to illegally shipping firearms to Mexico in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Ernesto Salgado-Guzman, of Madera, entered his guilty plea in federal court Monday morning. According to court documents, Salgado-Guzman was part of a scheme to purchase more than 400 guns in Madera, mostly Ruger Model 10/22 and .22-caliber rifles, and sell them to various individuals in Oaxaca, Mexico. During the probe, 85 of the firearms were seized – 54 in Mexico and 31 in Madera.
The court documents state that between 2006 and 2009, Salgado-Guzman solicited and directed the assistance of co-conspirators to purchase firearms from a sport shop in Madera. Other co-conspirators and Salgado-Guzman transported the weapons to Mexico to be sold to individuals in Oaxaca. Salgado-Guzman knew that a license or permit was required to export the firearms to Mexico, but he did not have any license or permit from the Unites States government to do so.
"This case involved cooperation between law enforcement officials in this district and in Mexico to prosecute participants in this gun trafficking scheme on both sides of the border," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. "Stopping the illegal flow of guns from the Unites States to Mexico is an important objective in both countries."
"Ernesto Salgado-Guzman will no longer be able to traffic firearms to Mexico to perpetuate the violence being committed," stated ATF Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Riehl. "This is another victory for law enforcement in the war on crime domestically and internationally."
"Thwarting the illegal flow of guns into Mexico is crucial to reducing the violence and bloodshed in that country," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco, which oversees HSI’s enforcement activities in Fresno. "HSI will continue to work closely with its federal and local partners to ensure the Central Valley does not serve as a source of firearms being illicitly trafficked to Mexico or any other nation."
ATF and HSI received substantial assistance with the investigation from various Mexican law enforcement agencies and the Fresno Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly A. Sanchez is prosecuting the case.
Salgado-Guzman is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill May 5. He faces a maximum statutory penalty 40 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine.
Salgado-Guzman’s co-defendant Demetrio Sebastian Cortez-Ordaz, 47, of Madera pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 24.
Two other defendants in the case, Demetrio Cortez-Salgado, of Madera, and Florencio Solanes-Morales, of Madera, previously pleaded guilty. Cortez-Salgado received a two-year prison term. Solanes-Morales was sentenced to 18 months.
Demetrio Sebastian Cortez-Ordaz is scheduled to appear before Judge O’Neill Feb. 24 for sentencing. A sixth defendant, Zeferina Salgado Guzman de Cortez, 44, of Madera, is slated to go on trial April 22. The final two defendants in the case, Gregorio Salgado-Lopez and Maria Lopez de Salgado, both residents of Madera, were prosecuted in Mexico on related charges.