CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — Four people residing in Houston have been ordered to prison for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic dozens of AK-47 variant rifles from the Houston area to Mexico, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Robert Elder, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Mexican nationals Abel Lopez, 35, and Arturo Garcia, 31; and Roberto Santana Mears, 22, and Martha Gonzales, 41, all pleaded guilty at varying times earlier this year as did Javier Resendez, 29, Angel Aquino-Pineda, 28, and Mary Bel Deanda, 39. All reside in Houston.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos handed Lopez, who was also convicted of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, to a total of 180 months in federal prison, while Mears, Garcia and Gonzalez were ordered to serve respective terms of 36, 46 and 36 months. In handing down the sentence, Judge Ramos admonished Lopez that he was just fueling the violence in his very own country. Earlier this month, Aquino-Pineda was ordered to serve 100 months in federal prison. Resendez and Bel Deanda will be sentenced July 18, 2014.
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 are prosecuting the case.