PHOENIX - A Tempe man accused of running a weapons smuggling ring in Arizona was arrested along with three of his co-conspirators Thursday in a joint operation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Edward Hossa, 54, is facing federal charges for fraudulently purchasing a variety of firearms from licensed dealers in Glendale, Apache Junction and Mesa, Ariz., from July through November of 2010. Hossa is also charged with illegally attempting to export the weapons to Mexico and with being an unlicensed dealer of firearms.
"Weapons traffickers seek profits built on the bloodshed in Mexico," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Arizona. "ICE is standing firm with our partners from the ATF and the U.S. Attorney's Office to stop the flow of weapons south of the border."
Luis Gabriel Valenzuela, 36, of Phoenix; Jeremy Ray Hossa, 36, of Tempe; and Lynda Marie Yarrow, 26, of Tempe are each facing charges of fraudulently purchasing firearms on Edward Hossa's behalf.
"Weapon smuggling rings fuel the violence south of the border," said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. "Straw purchasers disregard the consequences for the allure of the quick cash. They can't claim ignorance to their direct contribution to the bloodshed. These arrests are proof that our office along with ICE and ATF are committed to shutting down these organizations and interdicting southbound weapons."
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona, Edward Hossa induced the three other suspects to act as "straw purchasers" of firearms. Valenzuela is accused of buying five handguns in July and November at two different stores in Glendale. Though Valenzuela claimed he was buying the weapons for himself, he is accused of buying them for Edward Hossa. Both Jeremy Ray Hossa and Yarrow face similar charges: Hossa for four rifles and one handgun purchased in Apache Junction in September and Yarrow for two handguns purchased in Mesa in November.
HSI and ATF agents arrested the suspects while serving six federal search warrants in the Phoenix metropolitan area at properties related to the case.
"This investigation is further proof of the relentless efforts by Mexican drug cartels to illegally acquire large quantities of firearms in the U.S. for use in the ongoing Mexican drug war," said Bill Newell, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Phoenix Field Division. "This investigation is also further proof that the 'straw purchase' of firearms continues to be a significant problem. Those individuals that knowingly falsify ATF firearms forms to supply Mexican drug cartels with firearms have as much blood on their hands as the criminals that use them."
A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.