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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Texan sentenced for attempting to export weapons

LAREDO, Texas - A 64-year-old Dallas resident been ordered to federal prison for attempting to export firearms, firearm magazines and thousands of rounds of ammunition to Mexico, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

The jury deliberated for five hours before convicting Jose Rafael Vasquez July 1, following a two-day trial. 

Today, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana, who presided over the trial and sentencing, ordered Vasquez to serve 63 months in federal prison immediately followed by a three-year term of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard additional information, including the fact that the firearms bore decorative handles and were quite expensive, which criminal organizations highly prized in Mexico.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Saldana noted Vasquez had also previously purchased a semi-automatic rifle in Garland in 2017 which was later found in Durango, Mexico, after a shootout between Mexican law enforcement and armed criminal groups. Authorities directly traced the rifle to Vasquez as the last known legal purchaser.

On Oct. 15, 2020, Vasquez attempted to exit the United States into Mexico through the Laredo Port of Entry. During initial inspection, law enforcement discovered suspicious bundles zip-tied to the undercarriage of the vehicle. They appeared to contain ammunition.

Further inspection revealed three AK-47 rifles, eight semi-automatic handguns of various calibers, 16 handgun magazines and approximately 4,714 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition hidden inside his vehicle.

The defense attempted to convince the jury Vasquez did not know about the items inside the vehicle. They did not believe his claims and found him guilty as charged.

Vasquez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Customs and Border Protection conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Francisco J. Rodriguez and David Fawcett prosecuted the case.

Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Human Smuggling
Component(s): 
Updated December 15, 2021