Jury Convicts McAllen Resident For Role in Straw Purchase of Firearms Scheme and Possession of an Unregistered Silencer
|Sept. 27, 2011|
McALLEN, Texas – A federal jury has found Manuel Tijerina-Herrera, 48, a lawful permanent alien residing in McAllen, Texas, guilty of all counts alleged in a five-count indictment arising from a straw purchase of firearms scheme as well as for possessing a unregistered silencer, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
The jury returned its verdicts yesterday evening after approximately two hours of deliberation as it considered the testimony presented during three and one-half days of trial. The jury heard testimony that beginning in 2008, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) initiated an investigation which lead to the discovery that co-defendants Aaron Aleman, 21, Priscilla Trevino, 21, Gustavo Aleman, 22, and Schubby Ramirez, 21, all of Hidalgo, Texas, had lied on ATF Forms 4473 when they purchased firearms - claiming the firearms were being purchased for themselves. Through further investigation, agents learned the firearms were in fact purchased for Tijerina. The co-defendants were provided money to purchase the firearms which they then delivered to Tijerina at his restaurant, El Tiburon in McAllen, Texas. Tijerina paid them $150 for the purchase. Agents continued their investigation into Tijerina’s alleged unlawful purchase of firearms.
In 2010, ATF Special Agents were alerted to an suspicious purchase of a Bushmaster AR-15 firearm by Jesse Gonzalez, 19, of San Juan, Texas. Agents followed Gonzalez from a local federally licensed firearms dealer to the Palmas Sports Club and Klub Infinity, another business owned by Tijerina. Agents saw Gonzalez transfer the firearminto Tijerina’s truck. Tijerina then left Palmas and Klub Infinity in his truck, accompanied by Jonathan Tijerina, Manuel Tijerina’s son, and Victor Castro. Agents followed Tijerina’s truck to Tijerina’s home. Once at his home, Tijerina entered his home while Jonathan Tijerina or Victor Castro carried the rifle into Tijerina’s home. An ATF agent also followed Gonzalez and ultimately interviewed him. Gonzalez admitted to lying on three ATF Forms 4473 and purchasing as many firearms. Agents then secured a federal search warrant for the Tijerina’s residence. That search resulted in ATF agents recovering the rifle that Gonzalez had purchased that day and a 9mm Beretta pistol with a threaded barrel and compatible firearms silencer.
Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa, who presided over the trial, accepted the guilty verdicts and has set sentencing for Dec. 29, 2011. For the three convictions of aiding and abetting the making false statements on ATF Form 4473 and the conspiracy to make a false statements on ATF Form 4473 conviction, Tijerina faces a maximum of five years in federal prison without parole. For the possession of a non-registered silencer, Tijerina faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. All five counts of conviction also carry fines of $250,000 each. Initially released on bond, Tijerina was taken into custody on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, for a pretrial release violation. He will remain in custody pending sentencing.
Aaron Aleman, Trevino, Gustavo Aleman and Gonzalez have all pleaded guilty to a single count of making a false statement on a ATF Form 4473 and are awaiting sentencing. Ramirez is pending trial and presumed innocent unless and until convicted by due process of law.
The investigation leading to the July 2010 indictment was conducted by the ATF. Assistant United States Attorney Steven T. Schammel is prosecuting the case.