Significant disruption to Mexico-bound gun trafficking continues under Operation Without a Trace, with seizures of 1,125 firearms, over 680,000 rounds of ammunition, $28 million in currency and 360 arrests made to date. Along with this multi-agency, ongoing operation, agents seek the public’s assistance in reporting suspicious activity.
“This multi-agency initiative is significantly disrupting the flow of illegal firearms into Mexico that supply dangerous transitional crime organizations,” said Joseph Lestrange, (Acting) Deputy Assistant Director, HSI Transnational Organized Crime Division. “The seizures and arrests made to date during Operation Without a Trace is sending a clear message to weapon smugglers that we are taking strong action against their firearms trafficking.”
Transporting firearms or ammunition into Mexico requires a license from the U.S. Government and a permit from the Government of Mexico. Purchasing for or providing a firearm to someone knowing they intend to smuggle it into Mexico is illegal. Anyone who violates U.S. and Mexican gun laws may receive prison sentences of up to 30 years in Mexico; and up to 10 years in the U.S.; have their U.S. Visa revoked; and may be permanently deported from the U.S. if applicable.
“Mexican organized crime groups use firearms to wage deadly, bloody wars against rival criminal groups and government agencies, as well as to extort civilians,” stated Timothy Tubbs, (Acting) Special Agent in Charge, HSI San Antonio. “There is no safe hiding place for anyone engaged in illegal firearms trafficking to Mexico. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Agents will relentlessly pursue illegal firearms traffickers wherever they are, every day, at all hours with our law enforcement partners.”
U.S. Customs of Border Protection (CBP) efforts are a major factor in the success of Operation Without a Trace. “Our officers and agents work tirelessly to intercept illegal weapons and ammunition being exported to criminal organizations across the border,” said Troy Miller, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner for U.S. Customs of Border Protection. “The partnership between CBP, ICE HSI and ATF is imperative in order to stop these criminals and bring them to justice to protect the American people throughout the nation.”
The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Associate Deputy Director Marvin G. Richardson commented, “The cooperation among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and the government of Mexico is the foundation for combating cross-border firearms trafficking. ATF works relentlessly to address and prevent the diversion of legally purchased firearms into the illegal marketplace in order to keep guns out of the hands of drug trafficking organizations and their criminal trigger pullers. Stemming the flow of illegal guns to Mexico remains a high priority for ATF and the U.S. Government.”
During Fiscal Year 2020 Operation Without a Trace resulted in 353 investigations opened, 62 search warrants, 277 arrests; and the seizure of 542 firearms, 2,698 magazines, 493,833 rounds of ammunition and $16,579,946. As of July 1, during Fiscal Year 2021 Operation Without a Trace resulted in 147 investigations opened, 87 search warrants, 133 arrests; and the seizure of 583 firearms, 1,644 magazines, 187,738 rounds of ammunition and $11,695,004.
Operation Without a Trace’s success is due in large part to confidential information tips from the public.
HSI, CBP and ATF launched an information campaign today to increase public awareness about how to provide confidential information tips about gun trafficking. English and Spanish digital tip line awareness messages are being displayed on over 200 screens at more than 20 southwest land border ports of entry, and a number of Border Patrol Stations, and International Airport Terminals with direct flights to Mexico. The agencies’ social media accounts are also being used to spread the word about how to provide confidential information tips about gun trafficking.
Tips are kept fully confidential and relayed to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agencies use confidential information tips from the public to identify, target, disrupt, and dismantle transnational organized crime networks and actors. Anyone can report allegations of cross-border weapons trafficking by submitting tips at www.ice.gov/tips or by calling 1 (866) 347-2423 from the U.S. and Canada, or 1 (802) 872-6199 from any country in the world.
Operation Without a Trace was adopted by the U.S. Council on Transnational Organized Crime and is a unified Department of Homeland Security effort to fight the illegal trafficking of guns and ammunition from the United States into Mexico. The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) HSI, and CBP partnered with the Department of Justice’s ATF to disrupt and dismantle illegal gun trafficking networks.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of ICE 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 over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 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.