BROWNSVILLE, Texas - A Cameron County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty on Friday to attempting to permit a load of semi-automatic firearms to be unlawfully exported from the United States into Mexico. The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in coordination with the FBI and Cameron County Sheriff's Office.
Jesus A. Longoria, 31, of Brownsville, Texas, has been a Cameron County sheriff's deputy since March 2006. On Dec. 17, before U.S. District Court Hilda G. Tagle, he pleaded guilty to the federal felony charge. He admitted that on May 5, 2010, while assigned to the Veterans' and Gateway Ports of Entry to prevent stolen vehicles from leaving the United States, he attempted to send and export 13 semi-automatic firearms from the U.S. into Mexico.
According to court records, Longoria contacted the driver of a vehicle containing 13 semi-automatic weapons via cellular telephone to instruct him when he could cross into Mexico without inspection by state and federal authorities. Longoria did not know that the driver of the load vehicle was actually an undercover federal agent (UC). When the load vehicle driven by the UC arrived at the bridge, Longoria, while standing at the federal inspection station, waived the vehicle through the inspection area and directed the vehicle to enter Mexico via the Veteran's bridge. Longoria admitted he knew the vehicle contained firearms and the driver did not have a license or legal permission to export firearms. He believed the firearms were unlawful for export and were intended for use by a Mexican drug cartel. In return, Longoria accepted payment of $4,000.
The vehicle was intercepted before entering into Mexico and the weapons recovered.
Longoria was arrested on the charges on Nov. 1 and has remained in custody without bond. He will remain in custody pending a sentencing hearing set for March 14. Smuggling goods from the United States carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The charges against Longoria resulted from an investigation conducted by ICE HSI, the FBI, and the Cameron County Sheriff's Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hagen, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.