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Monday, April 22, 2024

HSI San Antonio Joins Federal Partner to Arrest 5 in South Texas for Allegedly Trafficking Military Grade Firearms to Mexican Drug Cartel

Five men were arrested in the Texas cities of Laredo, Hebbronville and Falls City on March 20 for allegedly trafficking military grade firearms to a drug cartel in Mexico. The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Gerardo Rafael Perez Jr. aka “Jerry,” 23, Luis Matias Leal aka “Wicho” aka “Poncho” aka “El Tio,” 30, Antonio Osiel Casarez, 26, Francisco Alejandro Benavides aka “Frankie,” 23, and Mark Anthony Trevino Jr., 24, all were charged in an indictment for one count of conspiracy to traffic firearms, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to straw purchase firearms with a maximum penalty of 25 years of imprisonment.

According to court documents, Perez Jr. aka “Jerry,” allegedly coordinated the acquisition of more than 100 firearms throughout Texas to be smuggled across the international border and delivered to a drug trafficking cartel in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Perez’s organization allegedly used straw purchasers, including co-defendants Benavides aka “Frankie,” 23, and Trevino Jr. to procure the firearms from a variety of sources in the Western, Southern, and Northern Districts of Texas. Court documents allege that the organization would acquire guns from unlicensed dealers of firearms, or from federal firearm licensees, where straw purchasers would make false representations to secure the firearms.

Leal aka “Wicho” aka “Poncho” aka “El Tio,” is alleged to have provided cash and instructions to facilitate the conspiracy, while Casarez, would smuggle the firearms into Mexico and return to the United States with bulk cash.

The high-powered firearms allegedly acquired by Perez’s organization included FNH SCAR rifles, Barrett .50 caliber rifles, FNH M294S rifles, and M1919 rifles.

Perez, Casarez, Leal, Benavides, and Trevino were all named in a superseding indictment filed March 6. They were arrested on March 20.

Perez, Casarez, Leal and Benavides are further charged with one count of conspiracy to smuggle goods from the United States for up to five years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime for up to 20 years imprisonment. Perez faces two additional firearms trafficking charges. Leal, Benavides, and Trevino are also charged with falsifying information when buying a firearm, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment; and an additional count of straw purchasing. All of the charges also carry a fine up to $250,000.

Co-defendants Jose Emigdio Q. Mendoza, Gerardo Antonio Ibarra Jr. and Gerardo Corona, Jr. were initially named in an earlier indictment. Mendoza was allegedly engaged in the business of dealing firearms without a license, selling military-grade weapons to members of the Perez conspiracy. Ibarra and Corona were allegedly straw purchasers for the organization.

Several of the defendants are alleged to have contacted Mendoza to purchase the firearms, including SCAR rifles, Barrett .50 caliber rifles, and M249 rifles. Mendoza is alleged to have sold at least 22 such firearms to his co-conspirators from December 2022 to March 2023 and received approximately $169,900.00, at a markup from the retail price of the guns so he could derive a profit for himself.

Mendoza was arrested in San Antonio on March 11, 2023. Ibarra and Corona were arrested in September and October 2023.

A federal district court judge will determine their sentencing according to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Calve, Western District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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