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Press Release

Rio Bravo Man Who Provided Assault Rifles To Mexican Gangs Sentenced To Prison

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

LAREDO, Texas – Silverio Venegas Jr., 37, of Rio Bravo, has been sentenced to serve a total of 51 months in prison, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. 

An investigation into suspicious purchases at local gun stores by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Forearms and Explosives (ATF) led to the discovery that Venegas purchased an AK-47 rifle, an AR-15 rifle and an AR-15 pistol from a local gun store in Laredo between Dec. 17-30, 2011. Agents confirmed that Venegas had also listed a prior address as his current residence, also a federal violation, and eventually encountered Venegas. In an interview with ATF agents, Venegas admitted he was hired by someone from Mexico who paid Venegas to buy the three firearms. Venegas was driven to the store each time and purchased as specific model, make and caliber of firearm. 

The three firearms were later discovered at crime scenes in Mexico. The AR-15 pistol, which is the pistol version of the AR-15 assault rifle, was found less than a month after its purchase in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, after a shootout between a Mexican Army patrol and gunmen. According to Mexican reports obtained by ATF, several gunmen traveling in six vehicles opened fire on the soldiers who return their fire. Five Mexican soldiers were wounded. One soldier and four gunmen died of their injuries in the exchange. The two rifles Venegas purchased were found a crime scene in Saltillo, Mexico.

Venegas later pleaded guilty to three charges of making false statements on federal firearms forms 4473 falsely stating the firearms were for him when they were actually for unknown persons in Mexico. Today, United States District Judge Keith P. Ellison handed Venegas three 51-month-terms on each of the three counts, to be served concurrently, related to the purchase of two assault rifles and one assault pistol. He was further ordered to serve a three-year-term of supervised release after completion of the prison sentences.

The matter was investigated by the ATF in conjunction with the Laredo Police Department and the United States Border Patrol.  Several police officers and Border Patrol agents have been cross-designated as ATF Task Force Officers working directly with the federal agency, assisting in the investigation of this and other crimes. Assistant United States Attorney Homero Ramirez prosecuted the case.

Updated April 30, 2015