EL PASO, Texas - A local pawn shop manager and five other employees were arrested on Wednesday on federal ammunition-smuggling charges by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
ICE HSI special agents arrested all six of the following targeted individuals: Bryan Nelson Schonberg, 60, manager of Geneva Loan and Jewelry Co.; Jaime Rangel, 40; Guadalupe Gallegos, 47; Cirilio Soriano, 47; Elataria Pedroza, 57; and Raquel Galvan, 47. They are scheduled to have their initial hearing Aug. 4 in federal court.
All of the defendants, except Pedroza, are charged with the following crimes: conspiracy to smuggle ammunition from the United States, aiding and abetting ammunition smuggling, conspiracy to smuggle high-capacity firearms magazines, aiding and abetting high-capacity firearms magazine smuggling, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Pedroza is charged with conspiracy to smuggle ammunition from the United States, and aiding and abetting ammunition smuggling.
They are all named in a five-count federal grand jury indictment returned July 27. The indictment alleges that from July 1, 2010 until July 27, 2011 the defendants conspired to smuggle ammunition from the United States into Mexico. According to the indictment, the scheme involved selling large quantities of ammunition and large-capacity ammunition magazines to ICE HSI undercover agents.
Further, the defendants, knowing that the goods would be smuggled into Mexico, allegedly repackaged the ammunition from its original factory-rigid cardboard boxes into taped bundles or plastic bags to make it easier to conceal from authorities.
During the yearlong investigation, federal agents seized about 34,500 rounds of assault-caliber ammunition and more than 180 large-capacity magazines for AK-47- and AR-15-type firearms.
If convicted, the defendants face the following possible sentences: a maximum of 20 years in federal prison on the money-laundering conspiracy charge, up to 10 years in federal prison per smuggling charge, and, up to five years in federal prison per smuggling-conspiracy charge.
An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.