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May 19, 2023McAllen, TX, United StatesFirearms, Ammunition and Explosives

Texas woman sentenced for exporting pistols to Mexico after HSI McAllen, federal partner investigation

McALLEN, Texas — A Texas woman was sentenced to three years in federal prison on May 18 for exporting firearms and ammunition. The sentence follows a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigation with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Brenda Belinda Barba, 33, was sentenced to 36 months in prison for exporting pistols to Mexico from the United States. She will also serve three years of supervised release. At the hearing, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez heard additional evidence regarding WhatsApp messages Barba sent on the morning of her arrest to negotiate the firearm purchases and transport.

According to court documents, on Nov. 29, 2021, Barba attempted to exit the United States at the Anzalduas Port of Entry. At that time, she told law enforcement she had nothing to declare, including firearms or ammunition. However, upon inspection of the vehicle, authorities discovered two pistols, magazines and ammunition concealed in her handbag. She told agents that she had purchased the firearms at an Academy Sports and Outdoors store and was planning to take them to her family’s ranch in Mexico. Barba was not a licensed gun exporter and did not have permission to export the guns to Mexico.

Barba pleaded guilty April 7, 2022. At the time of her plea, she admitted to attempting to unlawfully exporting a Glock 9mm pistol, Glock .22-caliber pistol, four Glock pistol magazines and 550 rounds of various caliber ammunition.

In handing down the sentence, Alvarez noted that cartels use any and all types of firearms and all firearms pose a danger to the safety of all communities. Alvarez also highlighted how Barba’s story about taking the firearms to her family’s ranch did not coincide with messages she sent describing her willingness to take as many as possible and transport as often as needed.

Barba was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

“HSI special agents are committed to combating the illegal smuggling of firearms that fuel violence both domestically and abroad,” said HSI San Antonio acting Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee. “This sentence sends a strong message to weapons traffickers that law enforcement will work aggressively with our federal law enforcement partners to combat this egregious and dangerous criminal activity.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee Fry and Rick Blaylock of the Southern District of Texas prosecuted the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 05/19/2023