Kings County and Tennessee Residents Plead Guilty to Firearm Trafficking Charges
FRESNO, Calif. — Rafael Sanchez, 40, of Kettleman City; Victor Luna, 25, and Ashley Sanchez, 23, both of Lenoir City, Tennessee pleaded guilty today to conspiring to traffic in firearms by an unlicensed person, and Rafael Sanchez also pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, from April 2016 until March 2018, Tennessee-based co‑conspirators Victor Luna, Ashley Sanchez, Juan Gonzalez-Mejia, and Alexis Sanchez assisted in purchasing firearms in Tennessee that were shipped to California. At the direction of Rafael Sanchez, Victor Luna and Juan Gonzalez-Mejia purchased firearms in Tennessee that the other co-conspirators packaged and mailed to Rafael Sanchez in California. Rafael Sanchez then sold the firearms to individuals in California. Rafael Sanchez also pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm after having been convicted a felony violation of assault with a deadly weapon in 1999. Rafael Sanchez admitted in his plea that, despite knowing he could not lawfully possess a firearm, he directed others to mail firearms to him in California, and on March 8, 2018, he was in possession of a ROMARM Cugir, Model Mini Draco.
On May 6, 2019, Juan Gonzalez-Mejia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in firearms by an unlicensed person and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 9. On Sept. 30, Alexis Sanchez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in firearms by an unlicensed person and conspiracy to distribute narcotics. She is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 16.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Lenoir City Police Department in Tennessee, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee assisted in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Newman and Stephanie Stokman are prosecuting the case.
Sentencing for today’s defendants is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2020. Victor Luna, Ashley Sanchez, and Rafael Sanchez face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine related to the conspiracy to traffic in firearms by an unlicensed person. Rafael Sanchez also faces maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine related to the conspiracy to traffic in firearms by an unlicensed person. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. To learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods, go to www.justice.gov/psn.