INDIANAPOLIS — A local man was sentenced Thursday to three years and three months in federal prison for illegally exporting firearms to Honduras.
This sentence resulted from a joint investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Alex Martinez, 41, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 39 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt for making false statements to purchase firearms, and then unlawfully exporting those firearms from the United States to Honduras.
"Those who choose to make illegal straw purchases of firearms will be held strictly accountable," said Acting U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler, Southern District of Indiana.
This investigation began in May 2010 when law enforcement authorities in Puerto Cortez, Honduras, discovered three identical, stainless steel Beretta 9mm handguns wrapped in foam and duct tape. The guns were concealed inside a plastic three-drawer CD organizer inside a cardboard box containing miscellaneous clothing and other personal items. Honduran authorities determined that Martinez shipped the personal belongings from the United States.
A subsequent ATF trace of the three Berettas recovered in Honduras revealed that Martinez purchased all three guns in Greenwood, Indiana, in April 2010. Further investigation by ATF and HSI revealed that between 2006 and 2010, Martinez purchased 28 handguns from federally licensed gun dealers in the Indianapolis area. Nine of those firearms were later confirmed to have subsequently been registered to various individuals in Honduras.
ATF and HSI agents executed a federal search warrant at Martinez's Indianapolis residence June 16, 2011. Agents did not find any firearms at Martinez's residence. However, Martinez admitted he had purchased the 28 handguns, shipped some of the weapons to Honduras himself, and sold some of the firearms to individuals who Martinez knew intended to ship them to Honduras. Martinez further admitted that he did not have a license to export firearms from the United States, and that he knew it was wrong to export the weapons in the manner he did.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Pratt found that the crimes charged in this case were exceedingly serious, particularly given the destination of the weapons. The Court noted that Honduras has had the highest homicide rate in the world since 2010, according to the U.S. State Department.
"ATF's mission is to remove from our communities those who would engage in or enable violent crime," stated ATF Special Agent in Charge Michael Boxler.
"This sentence is a direct result of the dedicated efforts of HSI and our ATF partners to create a safer community for the citizens of Indiana," said HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge Gary Hartwig. "Arresting those who attempt to illegally smuggle weapons out of the United States is an HSI priority."
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mathew Rinka, who prosecuted this case, Martinez must pay a $5,000 fine and serve two years of supervised release following his sentence.