Leader of Straw Purchasing Ring Lands 10-Year Prison Sentence
|Dec. 29, 2011|
McALLEN, Texas – Manuel Tijerina-Herrera, 48, a lawful permanent alien residing in McAllen, Texas, will serve the next 10 years in prison for possessing an unregistered silencer and his role in a straw purchasing ring, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Chief United States District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa handed down the sentence today which will be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release.
The investigation into Tijerina-Herrera began in 2008 when it was discovered that co-defendants Aaron Aleman, Priscilla Trevino, Gustavo Aleman and Schubby Ramirez had lied on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Forms 4473 when they purchased firearms for Tijerina-Herrera. Evidence showed the co-defendants were provided money by Tijerina-Herrera to purchase firearms, that they each lied on the ATF Form 4473 when they stated that they were the actual purchasers and that upon returning the firearms to Tijerina-Herrera’s restaurant, El Tiburon in McAllen, Tijerina-Herrera would then pay approximately $150 for the purchase.
In March 2010, ATF special agents were alerted to the suspicious purchase of a firearm and followed Jesse Gonzalez from a local federally licensed firearms dealer to Tijerina-Herrera’s co-located businesses, the Palmas Sports Club and Klub Infinity. Agents witnessed the transfer of a firearm from Gonzalez into Tijerina-Herrera’s truck and followed it back to his home where the firearm was then taken. Agents followed Gonzalez and conducted an interview at which time he admitted to lying on three ATF Forms 4473 and purchasing as many firearms for Tijerina-Herrera. Agents then secured a federal search warrant for the residence and recovered a 9mm Beretta pistol with a threaded barrel and compatible firearms silencer.
On Sept. 26, 2011, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts on all five counts charged against Tijerina-Herrera after approximately two hours of deliberation as it considered the testimony presented during three and a half days of trial. Today, Chief Judge Hinojosa sentenced Tijerina-Herrera to five years for each of three convictions of making false statements (straw purchasing), five years for conspiracy to make false statements and 10 years for possession of an unregistered silencer. The sentences will be served concurrently. He will also be required to pay a $5,000 fine.
In arriving at the sentence for Tijerina-Herrera, it was determined that Tijerina had been involved in straw purchase of 39 firearms, some of which had obliterated serial numbers. It was further determined that firearms were being trafficked and used or possess for another felony offense. His guideline range was further enhanced since other people were recruited to commit the offenses. He has been in custody detained since Sept. 23, 2011, for a pretrial release violation where he will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Gonzalez, 20, of San Juan, Texas, along with Trevino, 21, Aaron Aleman, 21, Gustavo Aleman Jr., 23, and Schubby Jay Ramirez, 21, all of Hidalgo, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of lying on ATF Form 4473 in the acquisition of a firearm (straw purchasing) and are set for sentencing tomorrow, Dec. 30, 2011. They are currently on bond pending that hearing. One remaining co-defendant, Oscar Martinez Jr., was taken into custody on Oct. 5, 2011, and the case is still pending. He is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
These investigations were conducted by the ATF, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Schammel and Juan Alanis.