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April 13, 2011

JURY CONVICTS AREA MAN FOR BEING A FELON IN POSSESSION OF AMMUNITION AND ATTEMPTING TO EXPORT AMMUNITION TO MEXICO

(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) - A Brownsville federal jury returned verdicts yesterday, finding Rene Huerta Jr. guilty of being a felon in possession of ammunition and attempting to export ammunition into Mexico without a license, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. 

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who presided over the case, accepted the jury’s verdicts and has ordered Huerta to remain in federal custody without bond pending sentencing on July 15, 2011. Huerta faces a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, followed by three years of supervised release on each of the two counts of conviction.
 
The verdicts were announced after two hours of deliberation following two days of trial testimony during which the jury heard that Huerta, 38, attempted to travel to Matamoros, Mexico, via the Brownsville & Matamoros (B&M) International Bridge on Nov. 24, 2010. During secondary inspection of Huerta’s vehicle, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers found 6,825 rounds of 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition within the dashboard area. This caliber of ammunition, determined to have been manufactured in Yugoslavia in the 1970s, is used in assault rifles such as the AK-47. Mexican drug cartels are known to use such weapons. The ammunition cannot be exported without a license and Huerta was not licensed to export ammunition.

In statements made to a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent, Huerta claimed he only possessed the vehicle for 30 minutes and denied knowing who owned the car. However, the government presented bridge crossing records and witnesses to prove Huerta had used the car on at least six prior occasions and only a week before his arrest had traveled in the same vehicle to each of the three Brownsville bridges and had identified the owner of the vehicle to another CBP officer during one of those crossings.

One week before his arrest, CBP officers on inbound inspections had discovered the dashboard compartment but at that time the compartment was empty. Officers testified describing the compartment as having been specifically built to smuggle contraband and about the condition of the compartment during prior searches. On Nov. 24th, a CBP officer remembered the vehicle and its hidden compartment ultimately leading to the discovery and seizure of the ammunition in the hidden compartment and Huerta’s arrest.  

In addition, Huerta has a previous state felony conviction from Cameron County. As a convicted felon, Huerta is prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.  

The charges against Huerta are the result of the investigative efforts of CBP and HSI and the assistance of the U.S. Department of State/Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph Leonard and Karen Betancourt are prosecuting the case.

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