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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dallas Man Guilty Of Straw Purchasing Firearms And Other Charges

LAREDO, Texas – Martin Lopez-Villela, 51, a legal permanent resident of Dallas, has entered a plea of guilty to conspiracy to defraud, smuggling goods from the United States and making a false statement during the purchase of firearms, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

A straw purchase, as it is commonly referred, occurs when the true purchaser solicits a middleman to conduct a firearm transaction for him. The true purchaser does not want to reveal his identity, frequently because federal law prohibits him from purchasing firearms.

On or about Feb. 13, 2014, Lopez-Villela drove a 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche to the Lincoln Juarez Bridge in Laredo, attempting to exit the U.S. and enter Mexico. At that time, he was questioned and he gave a negative declaration for firearms and ammunition. Upon inspection, however, agents and officers discovered two .22 caliber semi-automatic firearms and five boxes that contained 300 rounds of various handgun ammunition.

Lopez-Villela was traveling to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, to deliver the firearms and ammunition. He admitted that while in Dallas, he purchased the two firearms from a firearms dealer and was to transport them and the ammunition into Mexico. He expected to be paid a total of $450 upon delivery. 

U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana will sent a sentencing date in the near future. At sentencing, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison for the straw purchasing conviction, as well as a maximum of five and 10 years, respectively, for the conspiracy and smuggling charges. All charges also carry a possible $250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjeev Bhasker is prosecuting.  

Updated April 30, 2015