Final two ordered to prison in firearms trafficking conspiracy
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — The final two Houston residents convicted in for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic dozens of AK-47 variant rifles from the Houston area to Mexico have been ordered to prison, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Robert Elder, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Javier Resendez, 29, and Mary Bel Deanda, 39, pleaded guilty earlier this year as did Mexican nationals Abel Lopez, 35, and Arturo Garcia, 31; and Roberto Santana Mears, 22, and Martha Gonzales, 41, and Angel Aquino-Pineda, 28, all of Houston.
Today, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos determined Resendez was responsible for recruiting the straw purchasers and handed him a sentence of 108 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. Bel Deanda received a 24-month sentence and will also serve three years of supervised release.
Last month, Lopez, who was also convicted of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, received a total of 180 months in federal prison, while Mears, Garcia, Gonzalez and Aquino-Pineda were ordered to serve respective terms of 36, 46, 36 and 100 months.
In 2013, the Kingsville Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force conducted a traffic stop on a truck driven by Aquino-Pineda in Kingsville and located 35 AK-47 variant rifles and $26,000 concealed in a false compartment. Seven of the rifles had obliterated serial numbers. Aquino-Pineda admitted his role was to transport the firearms from Houston to McAllen. The firearms would then be transported to Mexico.
ATF agents traced the firearms to Houston purchasers Deanda, Gonzales and Mears, who admitted they were “straw purchasers” for Resendez. Resendez indicated Garcia recruited him to purchase firearms for Lopez and that the firearms would be taken to Mexico. Resendez then recruited Deanda and Gonzales to “straw purchase” the firearms on his behalf. Mears admitted he was also a “straw purchaser” for Lopez.
On Jan. 24, 2014, agents executed a warrant at Lopez’s residence and located two Norinco, Model MAK90, 7,62x39mm AK-47 style rifles; one Baretta, Model 3032, Tomcat .32 caliber pistol; and $955. Lopez told agents that Garcia and Mears had purchased several firearms for him and that the firearms were to be sent to Mexico.
ATF investigated with the assistance of the Kingsville Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hugo R. Martinez and Jeffrey D. Preston prosecuted the case.