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August 12, 2021Laredo, TX, United StatesFirearms, Ammunition and Explosives

Houston man sentenced for firearm smuggling

LAREDO, Texas – A Houston resident was sentenced Aug. 12, to prison for smuggling goods from the United States and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents investigated the case in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Leonel Avalos-Santoyo, 50, was sentenced in U.S. district court to 46 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Avalos-Santoyo pleaded guilty June 6.

According to court documents, on April 25, 2020, Avalos-Santoyo traveled as a passenger in a commercial van from the United States into Mexico at the Lincoln Juarez Bridge in Laredo. CBP officers stopped the vehicle and performed an inspection. During the search, they discovered five firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories inside Avalos-Santoyo’s luggage.

The investigation revealed that between Sept. 21, 2019 and Nov. 5 Avalos-Santoyo purchased 41 firearms at three firearms dealers in Harris County. During each transaction, he falsely claimed he was the actual buyer.

Previously released on bond, Avalos-Santoyo was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Bowling, of the Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of ICE responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 08/19/2021