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Justice News

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

Monday, April 21, 2014

Seven Convicted In Firearms Trafficking Conspiracy

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Seven Houston residents have pleaded guilty for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic dozens of AK-47 variant rifles from the Houston area to Mexico, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Robert Elder, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Today, Javier Resendez, 29, entered a guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice Ellington. Abel Lopez, 34, Arturo Garcia, 30, Roberto Santana Mears, 22, Mary Bel Deanda, 39, Martha Gonzales, 41, and Angel Aquino-Pineda, 27, previously pleaded guilty at varying times before U.S. Magistrate Judges Ellington and Jason Libby.

“These convictions are examples of ATF’s continuing effort to stop the illegal flow of firearms to the hands of violent offenders, said Elder. “This is a continuation of ATF’s Frontline initiative working with our state and local partners in the fight against violent crime.”

In 2013, the Kingsville Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force conducted a traffic stop on a truck driven by Aquino-Pineda in Kingsville and located 35 AK-47 variant rifles and $26,000 concealed in a false compartment. Seven of the rifles had obliterated serial numbers. Aquino-Pineda admitted his role was to transport the firearms from Houston to McAllen. The firearms would then be transported to Mexico. 

ATF agents traced the firearms to Houston purchasers Deanda, Gonzales and Mears, who admitted they were “straw purchasers” for Resendez. Resendez indicated Garcia recruited him to purchase firearms for Lopez and that the firearms would be taken to Mexico. Resendez then recruited Deanda and Gonzales to “straw purchase” the firearms on his behalf. Mears admitted he was also a “straw purchaser” for Lopez.

On Jan. 24, 2014, agents executed a warrant at Lopez’s residence and located two Norinco, Model MAK90, 7,62x39mm AK-47 style rifles; one Baretta, Model 3032, Tomcat .32 caliber pistol; and $955. Lopez told agents that Garcia and Mears had purchased several firearms for him and that the firearms were to be sent to Mexico. 

Lopez, Garcia, Deanda, Gonzalez and Mears are set for sentencing July 11, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos. Judge Ramos will sentence Resendez July 18, 2014. Aquino-Pineda, charged and convicted in a separate, but related indictment, is set for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Hayden Head June 12, 2014.

All defendants face up to five years in federal prison as well as a possible $250,000 fine. Resendez also pleaded to being a felon in possession of a firearm and Lopez also pleaded guilty to being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm. Both will also face an additional 10 years and another possible $250,000 fine for these convictions.

Mears, Deanda, Gonzales remain on bond. The others have been in federal custody since their arrest and will remain in custody pending their sentencing hearings.

ATF investigated with the assistance of the Kingsville Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hugo R. Martinez and Jeffery D. Preston are prosecuting the case.

Updated April 30, 2015