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Mexican national pleads guilty to smuggling firearms to Mexico

SAN ANTONIO - A 44-year old Mexican man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to one count each of conspiracy to obtain firearms by making false statements, and conspiracy to smuggle firearms into Mexico. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, Western District of Texas, announced the plea; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted the investigation jointly with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Ernesto Tornel Olvera-Garza of Monterrey, Mexico, pleaded guilty before U.S. Judge Royal Furgeson; Olvera-Garza now faces up to 14-years imprisonment.

According to the facts filed in the case, Olvera-Garza conspired to buy guns using "straw purchasers" and then he smuggled those guns to Mexico. Since his temporary visa did not allow him to legally buy guns in the United States, Olvera-Garza instead paid people in the United States to buy guns for him and lied about who the guns were for.

Olvera-Garza first began gun trafficking, primarily in hunting rifles, in June 2005. However, between 2006 and the time of his arrest in October 2007, he trafficked in high-powered, high-capacity handguns and assault rifles, such as the FN 57 caliber pistol and the FNH PS90 rifle. Olvera-Garza organized and led the gun-smuggling conspiracy, which included at least nine other individuals who purchased firearms on his behalf. More than 50 weapons were purchased and smuggled to Mexico as part of this ring. One of Olvera-Garza's smuggled FN 57 pistols was recovered in Mexico after it was used in a running gun battle where two Mexican soldiers were killed.

Olvera-Garza remains in federal custody; his sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 5 at 2 p.m.

This case was investigated by ICE, ATF, and the San Antonio Police Department. Assistant U. S. Attorney Mark Roomberg, Western District of Texas, prosecuted this case.

This case was investigated as part of "Armas Cruzadas," an ICE-led bi-lateral program designed to comprehensively identify, disrupt, and dismantle trans-border weapons-smuggling networks. The operation aims to stop the illegal export of weapons from the United States and into the hands of drug cartel organizations inside Mexico. Armas Cruzadas will help strengthen interagency cooperation between United States and Mexican federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and promote the exchange of intelligence through multiple points of contact.