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Press Release

South Texas woman sentenced for weapons cache exportation

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

McALLEN, Texas – A 33-year-old San Juan resident has been ordered to federal prison for attempting to exit the country with three dozen AK-47 and AR-15 rifles and other weapons and ammunition, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Jessica Alvarado pleaded guilty Jan. 25 to smuggling goods from the United States.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez has now ordered Alvarado to serve 46 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard how these types of weapons are typically those that end up in the hands of cartel members in Mexico and the dangers that are associated with their use. In handing down the sentence, the court noted the dangers associated with these firearms and the individuals they endanger. The court also heard that at the time of the offense, Alvarado admitted to dealing cocaine on several occasions.

“Alvarado tried to sneak dangerous weapons across our southern border which could have had devastating effects,” said Hamdani. “This sentence should serve as a warning - put guns in the hands of others illegally and pay a hefty price with your freedom. An AK-47 or AR-15 doesn’t belong in the hands of a criminal.”  

“Drugs and guns are a deadly combination,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Antonio. “This sentencing serves as a warning to those who attempt to export weapons into Mexico and distribute highly addictive narcotics like cocaine. HSI will aggressively pursue violators and hold them accountable. This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative law enforcement efforts in the Rio Grande Valley and our strong partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

On Jan. 31, 2023, Jessica Alvarado attempted to depart the United States via the Hidalgo Port of Entry driving a Ford F-150. At the time, she denied having any firearms.

However, authorities noticed the bed of the pickup truck was abnormally elevated and referred the vehicle to secondary inspection. A search resulted in the discovery of 33 AK-47 variant rifles, three AR-15 rifles, a .22 caliber long rifle, two .45 caliber handguns and 39 ammunition magazines. Alvarado did not possess a license to export firearms from the United States.

The investigation led to a search at her residence in San Juan where law enforcement also found approximately 499 grams of a packaged white powdery substance that tested positive for the characteristics of cocaine and more than $13,000 in bulk U.S. currency.

Alvarado was permitted to remain on bond and will surrender at a later date to serve her sentence.

HSI conducted the investigation with the assistance of Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee Fry and Cahal P. McColgan 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 April 18, 2024