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Press Release

Nine in Custody on Illegal Firearm/Ammunition Possession Charges

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

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A total of nine people have been taken into custody following the return of eight separate, unrelated indictments, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Robert Elder, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

“By removing criminals involved in the illegal use of firearms and trafficking of illegal narcotics, ATF and our partner agencies have successfully shortened the power and reach of these criminals who are a scourge on the law abiding citizens of Corpus Christi and the surrounding areas,” said Elder.

Abel Martinez, 28, Eligio Mendez, 25, and Jonathan Villarreal, 22, were taken into custody today, while James Coddington, 30, was arrested yesterday. Previously in custody were Geronimo Sanchez, 34, Lee Rubalcada, 38, and Ricardo Banuelos, 40. All are residents of Corpus Christi.

All seven are charged in separate indictments alleging their illegal possession of firearms and/or ammunition.

Martinez, Mendez, Coddington and Banuelos are all charged as being felons in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Sanchez and Rubalcada are alleged to be felons in possession of ammunition and a firearm, respectively, while Villarreal is charged with possession of a sawed-off shotgun.

In a eighth separate, unrelated indictment, Gabriel Vela, 35, of Rosenberg, and Jason Garcia, 37, of El Campo, are charged with being in possession of firearms and ammunition. They were also arrested today. Vela has a prior felony conviction and Garcia has a prior conviction for domestic violence.

If convicted, each of the nine defendants face up 10 years of federal imprisonment and a possible $250,000 fine.

The charges stem from a coordinated effort known as Operation Rusty Hook conducted by ATF, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Corpus Christi Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety.

This cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Watt.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Updated July 7, 2015