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July 26, 2011

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Two Persons Prohibited from Possessing Ammunition Headed to Prison

McALLEN, Texas - Two men prohibited from possessing ammunition under federal law will be serving prison terms, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Cristian Lira, 29, of Mission, Texas, is a felon previously convicted for violating Title 8 U.S.C. § 1324 (conspiracy to transport an alien within the United States) in criminal number M-10-808, in the Southern District of Texas in McAllen, Texas. Domingo Agoberto Lopez-Tapia, 50, of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, is an alien who was admitted to the U.S. under a non-immigrant B1/B2 visa. Convicted felons and aliens are prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition. Both men pleaded guilty in January 2011 to being prohibited persons who knowingly and intentionally possessed approximately 139 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition.

Today, United States District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Lira and Lopez-Tapia to 37 months imprisonment each to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release.

The investigation leading to the charges against both men was initiated by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) after receiving information that Lira, a convicted felon, was selling rifles and ammunition in Mission. On Nov. 15, 2010 DPS agents joined by special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) initiated surveillance of Lira’s apartment. Late that afternoon, Lira was seen getting out of a car and entering his residence. An hour and a half later, a truck occupied by Lopez-Tapia pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex. Lira and Lopez-Tapia were seen together at the rear door on the passenger side of the vehicle reaching inside and moving items around. Lira then made two trips back to his apartment; once carrying an ammunition can and a second time with a bag. The vehicle with Lopez-Tapia then left the residence.

After the truck left, agents then approached Lira at his residence and asked him about firearms or ammunition. Lira admitted that he had just received the 139 rounds .50 caliber ammunition from the truck that had departed. Lira directed the agents to the bag and can of ammunition and a grenade that Lira thought was live but that law enforcement officers later found to be inert.  Lira admitted the ammunition was bound for Mexico. Lira was taken into custody. When Lopez-Tapia returned to collect the money for the ammunition from Lira, he was arrested. 

In arriving at the sentence in this case Judge Crane considered that the ammunition was intended for export noting Lira’s admission, the large quantity of military surplus .50 caliber ammunition and the nature of the sales transaction. Judge Crane also revoked the probationary term handed down for Lira’s previous conviction and sentenced him to the time he has served in custody. 

Both Lira and Lopez-Tapia have been in federal custody without bond since their arrests and will remain in custody to serve their sentences. 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Schammel.

The prosecution of Lira and Lopez-Tapia is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, an ongoing gun violence reduction initiative of the Department of Justice, which  partners federal, state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide to engage in a unified effort to prosecute individuals who possess firearms or ammunition in violation of federal law.