Mexican Man Gets Max for Delivering Grenades to Undercover Agents
McALLEN, Texas – Mario Alberto Garcia-Balderas, 45, of Mexico, has been ordered to prison following his convictions related to unlawful possession of firearms, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
A federal jury convicted Garcia-Balderas Feb. 23, 2015, following a four-day trial of both counts as charged – being an alien illegally and unlawfully in the United States in possession of a firearm and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Today, Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa, who presided over trial, ordered Garcia-Balderas serve the statutory maximum of 10 years in federal prison.
The court also sentenced Garcia-Balderas in a separate case which charged him with the immigration offense of re-entry after deportation to which he had previously pleaded guilty. The court sentenced him to 96 months in federal prison, 30 months of which was ordered to be served consecutively to the sentence in the firearms case.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Hinojosa noted that he had sentenced Garcia-Balderas twice before in federal cases and yet he still illegally re-entered the country and committed this very serious crime involving grenades. As an illegal alien, Garcia-Balderas is again expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.
“Today's sentencing sends a clear message to individuals who purchase, transport or facilitate the attempted smuggling of weapons, ammunition and other related items, said Special Agent in Charge James Spero of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio. “Preventing these items from being acquired from or delivered to the wrong hands is a top priority for HSI. We will continue working with our domestic and international law enforcement partners in this effort.”
The investigation began in September 2009 after federal agents received information that an individual or individuals were offering grenades for sale in the United States. Testimony at trial indicated Garcia-Balderas delivered improvised explosive device grenades to undercover agents on three occasions – Sept. 17, Sept. 21, and Sept. 28, 2009. Prior to the delivery of the grenades on Sept. 21, Garcia-Balderas received payment for the grenades in currency totaling $24,960.
Garcia-Balderas stipulated to the fact that he is a citizen of Mexico and that he had no status to be in the United States legally during 2009. He also agreed that prior to September 2009, he was previously convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
As an illegal alien and a convicted felon, he is prohibited by federal law of possessing firearms or ammunition.
Garcia-Balderas will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The charges are the result of an investigation by HSI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney Toni Trevino is prosecuting the case.