News and Press Releases

Four Sentenced for Possessing 40 mm Grenades as Part of Los Zetas Organization

May 15, 2013

McALLEN, Texas – Four Mexican nationals who had illegally entered the U.S. and possessed 40 mm grenades and a launcher have been ordered to federal prison, three of whom received the maximum sentences allowed by law, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Juan Ricardo Martinez-Cardenas, 38, Daniel Blanco-Avila, 23, Martin Martinez-Medina, 18, and Jose Lopez-Cerda, 24, entered guilty pleas on March 5, 2013, for possessing a destructive device.

Today, Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa sentenced Martinez-Cardenas, Blanco-Avila and Lopez-Cerda each to 120-month terms of federal imprisonment. In arriving at its sentence, Judge Hinojosa noted that although their guideline recommendations amounted to life in prison, the court was restricted to the 10-year-terms by statute. As to Martinez-Medina, the court downwardly departed to a 62-month-term of federal imprisonment, taking into consideration threats made against him for not following orders. As illegal aliens, they are all expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison.

Evidence showed that Martinez-Cardenas had been stopped in a vehicle with a four 40 mm grenades, an improvised 40 mm grenade launcher, four AK-47 type rifles and corresponding magazines loaded with 2,791 rounds of ammunition. Through subsequent investigation it was determined that Blanco-Avila, Martinez-Medina and Lopez-Cerda had also been involved in the transportation and movement of the munitions.

All four entered the United States illegally and then received the firearms and munitions which were all separately smuggled into the United States. The weapons were brought in by the Zetas, for whom these four defendants worked, in order to avoid the Gulf Cartel. The grenades, grenade launchers and firearms and ammunition were then to be smuggled back into to Mexico for use fighting in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

All of the men have been on detained without bond since the time of their arrest where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
 
The investigation was conducted by the Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Border Patrol. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Schammel.

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