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May 15, 2012

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Five Convicted for Falsifying Assault Rifle Purchases

LAREDO, Texas – Five Laredo residents have entered pleas of guilty for making a false statement on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) forms 4473 in the acquisition of firearms from federal firearms licensees (FFL), United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

Andrew Joshua Guerrero, 19, Jackie Lee Salinas, 21, Victoria Luna, 49, her daughter Vanessa Samantha Luna, 20, and Christopher Veve, 20, each pleaded guilty to making, or aiding and abetting the making of, false statements in the acquisition of firearms from FFLs. This is commonly referred to as “straw purchasing,” prohibited by Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(a)(1)(A). 
Each defendant admitted purchasing at least two firearms between April and June 2011 for persons who provided the money and turning over the rifles immediately after buying them.  They were paid to buy the assault rifles and to lie to the firearms store representatives and on the ATF forms 4473 by certifying they were the actual buyers of the firearms when in fact they were not. The defendants straw purchased a total of 15 assault rifles, all of them AK-47 and AR-15 variants, which were turned over almost immediately to the different persons who paid the defendants to buy the rifles.

At the hearing today, United States Magistrate Judge Guillermo R. Garcia asked each defendant if he knew whether firearms were headed for illegal export into Mexico. Most of the defendants claimed they did not know. Only Guerrero admitted that they were destined for Mexico. Judge Garcia also asked several of the defendants how they knew what to buy. While all answered they received directions, Salinas stated she “had no idea what rifles they were” when she went to the store, while Victoria Luna replied she is “not familiar with rifles, but just bought what was written on a piece of paper.” All admitted to having received payment of less than what was initially agreed. Victoria Luna is the mother of Vanessa Samantha Luna.

All five defendants were permitted to remain on bond pending their sentencing hearings, which are set for Aug. 30, 2012. At that time, each faces up to five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a nationwide commitment to reduce gun and gang crime in America by networking existing local programs that target gun and gun crime and providing these programs with additional tools necessary to be successful. Since its inception in 2001, approximately $2 billion has been committed to this initiative. This funding is being used to hire new federal and state prosecutors, support investigators, provide training, distribute gun lock safety kits, deter juvenile gun crime and develop and promote community outreach efforts as well as to support other gun and gang violence reduction strategies.
The matter was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and ICE-Homeland Security Investigations in conjunction with the Laredo Police Department. Several police officers have been cross-designated as ATF Task Force Officers working directly with the federal agency, assisting in the investigation of this and other crimes. Assistant United States Attorney Homero Ramirez prosecuted the case.