Mother and son indicted for allegedly smuggling ammunition and firearms parts to Philippines
LOS ANGELES — A Long Beach woman and her son have been named in federal grand jury indictments that charge them with illegally shipping hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of firearms parts and ammunition to their native Philippines – munitions that were concealed in shipments they falsely claimed to be household goods.
Marlou Mendoza, 60, and Mark Louie Mendoza, 30, are named in separate indictments returned by a federal grand jury Dec. 10. Marlou Mendoza was arrested last week at Los Angeles International Airport as she returned from a trip to the Philippines. The case against Marlou Mendoza, which charges her with illegally shipping ammunition, was unsealed after she was taken into custody Jan. 20 by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Meanwhile, Mark Mendoza, who is a citizen of the Philippines, remains at large and is believed to be in the Philippines. The United States Attorney's Office learned Tuesday that a federal judge has unsealed the case against Mark Medoza, who is named in an eight-count indictment charging him with conspiracy, the unlawful export of munitions, smuggling and money laundering.
Mark Mendoza, who was the president of a "tools and equipments" company known as Last Resort Armaments, ordered more than $100,000 worth of ammunition and firearms accessories, much of which was delivered to his parent's Long Beach residence over a six-month period in 2011. The items Mark Mendoza ordered included parts for M-16 and AR-15-type rifles, which are listed as defense articles on the United States Munitions List. Pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act, items on the Munitions List may not be shipped to the Philippines without an export license issued by the Department of State.
The money laundering charge against Mark Mendoza alleges that during the first six months of 2011, he transferred more than $650,000 in proceeds generated by the illegal ammunition exports from an account in the Philippines to a money remitter in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Marlou Mendoza is named in a three-count indictment that accuses her of failing to provide the required written notice to freight forwarders that she was shipping ammunition. The indictment cites three instances in 2011 when Marlou Mendoza allegedly shipped tens of thousands of rounds of .22-caliber ammunition and bullets.
"The Arms Export Control Act is designed to keep weapons out of the hands of people who may act against the interests of the United States," said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. "The weapons shipments charged in the indictments allowed firearm parts and ammunition to leave the United States and travel to the Philippines, where they could have been sold to anyone. Controlling the trafficking of weapons abroad is critical to protecting American interests abroad."
The charges against the Mendozas are the product of a joint probe by HSI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that began in 2011 after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers uncovered a cache of ammunition and firearms parts in an outbound crate being shipped by Marlou Mendoza that had falsely been declared to be household effects. In July 2011, CBP and the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) intercepted and seized three separate shipments from Last Resort Armaments containing approximately 180,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition, and more than three dozen receivers for AR-15 and M-16 assault rifles. In November 2012, specials agents with HSI and ATF special agents executed a search warrant at a location associated with Last Resort Armaments, seizing more than 120,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition, along with AR-15 trigger assemblies, magazines, sights and rifle barrels.
"The ammunition and accessories seized in this case represent quite an arsenal. Once these goods reached the Philippines, we can't be certain where they wound up – whether it's in the hands of hobbyists or those with more menacing intentions," said Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Los Angeles. "That's why such exports are closely regulated, to help prevent sensitive items from falling into the hands of those who might seek to harm America or its interests."
ATF Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Eric D. Harden said, "ATF is making clear that it if you are engaged in the business of selling firearms or dealing in munitions, you must comply with industry standards and regulations, no matter where you conduct your business – from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet."
Anne Maricich, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP in Los Angeles, commented: "CBP's LA/LB Seaport Outbound Team's expertise in reviewing manifests and determining which shipments to physically inspect are noteworthy. One pattern they encounter is a significant number of illegal firearms, firearms parts and ammunition manifested as ‘household goods and personal effects' destined for the Philippines. In this case, they flagged such a shipment and seized a substantial quantity of rounds, bullets, weapon parts and accessories in it – which all allegedly lacked required licenses or exemptions in violation of International Traffic in Arms and Export Administration Regulations. It's rewarding when our partnerships with HSI and ATF advance from intercepting to halting illegal schemes that could jeopardize the public's safety."
Marlou Mendoza was arraigned in federal court on January 20 and was ordered released on a $10,000 bond pending trial, which is scheduled for March 1 before United States District Judge George H. Wu. If convicted of all three counts contained in the indictment, she faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.
Mark Mendoza is charged with conspiracy, three counts of unlawful export of munitions, three counts of export smuggling and one count of money laundering. If he was convicted of all counts in the indictment, Mark Mendoza would face a statutory maximum sentence of 115 years in federal prison.