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Press Release

Daly City Man Sentenced To 20 Months In Prison For Smuggling Firearms To Philippines

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO – Elmer Ratunil Cuares was sentenced to 20 months in prison for smuggling goods, including firearms, out of the United States, announced United States Attorney Alex G. Tse; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge in Northern California and Northern Nevada Ryan L. Spradlin; and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement, San Jose Office, Special Agent in Charge Joseph P. Whitehead.  The sentence was handed down today by the Honorable Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Judge.

Cuares, 51, of Daly City, pleaded guilty to the charge on June 20, 2018.  According to his plea agreement, Cuares admitted that he attempted to export several firearms to the Philippines without the proper license authorizing him to do so.  

Cuares admitted that in the Spring of 2015 he entered into an agreement to purchase two trucks from a San Jose-based company.  Pursuant to the agreement, the company would arrange for the trucks to be transported to the Philippines in a shipping container from the United States.  After the company ordered and received the shipping container, Cuares received permission from the company to add personal items to the container so that those items could be shipped to the Philippines along with the trucks he had purchased.  Cuares added several items to the container, including a motorcycle, a television set, a washing machine or clothes dryer, a tool chest, and several boxes.  However, unbeknownst to the company or to authorities, Cuares also added to the shipping container several firearms including one Glock Model 42 .380 caliber handgun, one Ruger LC .380 caliber handgun, one STI .40 caliber handgun, and one Spikes Tactical M-4 assault rifle.  The shipping container arrived in the Philippines in early June of 2015.

Cuares also took steps to conceal the presence of the firearms in the container.  For example, he disassembled the firearms and hid the pieces inside of innocuous items.  Further, Cuares admitted export of the firearms is illegal under the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. § 2778) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (22 C.P.R. §§ 120-130), he knowingly exported the firearms from the United States to the Philippines, and he had neither applied for nor received a license authorizing him to export firearms. 

A federal grand jury indicted Cuares on September 14, 2017, charging him with three counts: one count each of smuggling goods from the United States and concealing goods prior to exportation from the United States, both in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 554, and one count of delivery of firearms to common carrier without written notice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(e).  Cuares pleaded guilty to the first charge. The additional charges were dismissed following sentencing.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Koh ordered Cuares to serve a one-year term of supervised release to begin after he has served his prison term.  Judge Koh ordered defendant to begin serving his sentence on November 28, 2018.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bostic is prosecuting the case.  The prosecution is a result of a joint investigation by HSI and the U. S. Department of Commerce.  

Updated September 27, 2018