CHICAGO — Two cousins from Chicago are facing federal firearms charges for allegedly dealing guns on the city’s South Side.
Over a four-month period earlier this year, BENJAMIN VASQUEZ JR. illegally sold 16 firearms, including a sawed-off shotgun and an AK-47 rifle, according to criminal complaints and affidavits filed in federal court in Chicago. Unbeknownst to him, the buyer was cooperating with law enforcement and had secretly recorded the transactions, the complaints state. One of the deals occurred in a residence in the New City neighborhood of Chicago on Feb. 21, 2017, involving the sale of a .22-caliber pistol, the complaints state.
Benjamin Vasquez’s cousin, JORGE VASQUEZ, has also been involved in dealing illegal firearms, the charges state. On Feb. 13, 2017, Jorge Vasquez sold a rifle to an individual who was cooperating with law enforcement, the complaints state. The deal, which occurred in an alley in the West Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, netted Jorge Vasquez $1,000, according to the complaints.
Benjamin Vasquez Jr., 26, was arrested Aug. 4, 2017, on a charge of knowingly possessing a firearm with an altered, removed or obliterated serial number. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 10, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole.
Jorge Vasquez, 27, is charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. He was arrested last month and remains in federal custody. His next court date has not been set.
The complaints were announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Celinez Nunez, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and Eddie T. Johnson, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.
The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Knowingly possessing a firearm with an altered, removed or obliterated serial number is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Possession of a firearm by a felon is punishable by up to ten years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew L. Kutcher.