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Jan. 8, 2009

FOUR SENTENCED FOR ROLE IN FIREARMS SCHEME

(McALLEN, Texas) – Four people have been sentenced for their roles in the purchase of firearms that were transferred to drug cartels in Mexico, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Ramon Lancet Mariscal-Orlandes, 32, a resident alien from Mexico residing in Pharr, Texas, received 87 months; Ramon Baltazar Pena, 24, of Mission, Texas, was sentenced to 24 months; Marc Anthony Arce, 25, of Pharr, Texas, received 57 months; and Apolonia Blanco, 21 of Pharr, Texas, was sentenced to four years probation with 12 months of electronic monitoring. United States District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa handed down the sentences late Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. 

Following an investigation by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in April 2008, the defendants were charged in a second superseding indictment on June 4, 2008, with 13 counts relating to the purchase of firearms destined for Mexican drug cartels. 

On July 1, 2008, Mariscal pleaded guilty to receiving and possessing a machine gun he ordered from a cooperating federally licensed firearms dealer. Mariscal was taken into custody on April 21, 2008, after he had paid the dealer and took possession of the machine gun. Mariscal was also charged with aiding and abetting the making of false statements with regard to 17 other firearms.

On Sept. 3, 2008, Pena pleaded guilty to making a false statement on ATF Form 4473, stating he was the actual purchaser of a pistol when he was, in fact, not. Pena was also charged with making false statements regarding the purchase of eight other pistols. Also on that day, Arce and Blanco pleaded to knowingly making and aiding and abetting the making of a false statement on ATF Form 4473 when Blanco stated on the form she was the actual purchaser of two Colt AR-15s when she was not. Arce and Blanco were also charged with the making and aiding and abetting the making of false statements with regard to the purchase of six other Colt AR-15s.

Evidence showed that Mariscal hired Pena, Arce and Blanco to purchase firearms that would then be taken into Mexico and delivered to drug cartels. Mariscal, with the assistance of Arce, would then direct the other defendants as to the types and quantities of weapons that were to be purchased. Pena and Blanco would then complete ATF Form 4473, falsely stating Pena and Blanco were the actual purchasers when they knew Mariscal was the actual purchaser.

At sentencing, the court found Mariscal responsible for more than 25 firearms taken into Mexico while the other defendants were held responsible for more than eight but less than 24 firearms. Evidence adduced at the sentencing hearing showed that Mariscal had inquired as to the purchase of 40 or more additional firearms, all of which would have been destined for Mexico. Additional evidence showed all defendants were aware the firearms were being trafficked to Mexico and that four of the AR-15s purchased by Blanco and Arce on March 18, 2008, and then transferred to Mariscal were recovered by Mexican officials when they raided a drug cartel stash house in Mexico. Officials recovered those firearms along with several other firearms and approximately 2000 rounds of ammunition and more than 7000 flash bang grenades.

The investigation was conducted by ATF and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Schammel.

 

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