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Press Release

Former police academy recruit headed to prison for exporting .50 caliber ammunition

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

McALLEN, Texas – A 22-year-old Pharr resident has been ordered to federal prison for his conviction of smuggling goods from the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Pedro Cruz Almeida Jr. pleaded guilty April 25, admitting he attempted to export .50 caliber tracer-equipped linked ammunition without a license to export.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez has now ordered him to serve 50 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence regarding Almeida’s degree of involvement in the smuggling scheme and how he executed his role in the scheme while simultaneously attending the police academy. In handing down the sentence, the court noted how Almeida – being from the area – knew the dangerousness of this quantity and this type of ammunition in the hands of the cartel.

“Almeida lived a double life,” said Hamdani. “While training to be a police officer, he attempted to smuggle hundreds of rounds of lethal ammunition into Mexico. That all changed with his arrest and conviction, trading a blue police uniform for a convict’s orange jumpsuit. Criminals like him could have eroded the public trust and we are breathing a sigh of relief that he was stopped before causing more harm.”

On Feb. 3, Almeida was driving a red Hyundai Elantra, at which time authorities conducted a traffic stop.

A subsequent search led to the discovery of 600 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition in the vehicle. Almeida admitted he intended to transfer the ammunition to an individual waiting at the Port of Entry driving a vehicle with a Tamaulipas, Mexico, license plate. In Mexico, he received cash to order the ammunition. Almeida admitted he ordered ammunition approximately 30 occasions over the past year.

On Feb. 9, agents subsequently seized an additional 300 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition postmarked to Almeida.

At the time of the plea, Almeida informed the court he was attending a local police academy at the time of his arrest.

Previously released on bond, he was taken into custody following the sentencing today where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Hidalgo County Constable’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter I. Brostowin and Lee Fry prosecuted the case.

This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program. In May 2021, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a new effort to reduce violent crime, including the gun violence that is often at its core. Integral to that effort was the reinvigoration of PSN, a two-decade old, evidence-based and community-oriented program focused on reducing violent crime. The updated PSN approach, outlined in the department’s Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Violent Crime is guided by four key principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results of our efforts. The fundamental goal is to reduce violent crime, not simply to increase the number of arrests or prosecutions.

Updated August 31, 2023

Firearms Offenses