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South Texas man sentenced to 2 ½ years for selling weapons to Gulf Cartel

MCALLEN, Texas — A south Texas man was sentenced Monday to 2 ½ years in federal prison for buying two firearms to sell to Gulf Cartel members, and making false statements on a federal form, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation was worked jointly by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Ricardo Cantu Jr., 32, of Hidalgo, Texas, appeared before U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa who sentenced him to 30 months imprisonment to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Judge Hinojosa took into consideration that the defendant repeatedly changed his story, which resulted in the sentence ultimately imposed Monday. Cantu pleaded guilty June 23, 2011 to making false statements with respect to information required to be kept in the records of federally licensed firearms dealers.

According to court records, the investigation began July 6, 2010 when ATF and HSI special agents responded to the Hidalgo Port of Entry about two firearms and 6,300 rounds of ammunition being smuggled into Mexico by Andrei Antonio Torres-Vazquez. The two firearms were determined to have been purchased that same day by Cantu.

After being interviewed, Cantu admitted that Gulf Cartel members hired him to purchase firearms for their criminal organization to take into Mexico. Cantu had made false statements on ATF Form 4473 when he purchased the weapons.

Previously released on bond, Cantu was allowed to remain on bond pending the issuance of an order to surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future.

In the separate but related case, Torres-Vazquez pleaded guilty Aug. 25, 2010, and was sentenced to 37 months in prison Nov. 8, 2010.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Schammel, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.