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Jan. 11, 2011


(LAREDO, Texas) - A United States Army First Sergeant has been sentenced to a three-year-term of probation for smuggling weapons, ammunition and a pair of night vision goggles into Mexico, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

First Sergeant Manuel Zamora-Mendoza, 39, of Killeen, Texas, was sentenced this afternoon by United States District Judge Michaela Alvarez. He was convicted of the federal offense after pleading guilty on Sept. 16, 2010.

On July 3, 2010, Zamora-Mendoza was arrested by officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection while attempting to enter Mexico from Laredo, Texas, after officers found that anomalies in the quarter panels of his a white 2002 Ford Focus concealed seven rifles, two handguns, six rifle scopes and 6,729 rounds of ammunition, as well as a pair of night vision goggles. The night vision goggles were military equipment from Zamora-Mendoza’s unit in Fort Hood, Texas. The firearms, scopes and ammunition were privately purchased. Zamora-Mendoza admitted to officers he knew smuggling weapons into Mexico was a crime, but claimed he was delivering them to family members. 

Judge Alvarez considered evidence that, in addition to this load of weapons, four other firearms had been recovered in Mexico which had been traced back to Zamora-Mendoza, which Judge Alvarez stated was of great concern to the court. This additional evidence against Zamora-Mendoza was revealed during the course of the continuing investigation conducted by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, working together with agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The United States recommended a prison term as the appropriate sentence for Zamora-Mendoza’s conviction. However, Judge Alvarez relied heavily several defense witnesses including the defendant’s colonel, captain and command sergeant major who addressed the curt on the First Sergeant’s behalf regarding his honorable service in the military in handing down the probationary sentence.
The defendant had been out on bond since his arrest. As a convicted felon, Zamora-Mendoza is prohibited from even possessing a firearm under federal law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Calhoun-Lopez prosecuted the case.


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