Two Sentenced For Attempted Smuggling Of Assault Rifle Magazines
LAREDO, Texas – Julio Cesar Flores-Martinez, 47, and Francisco Padilla-Perez, 41, both Mexican nationals living in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, have been ordered to prison for their roles in attempting to smuggle 652 assault rifle magazines into Mexico, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
Visiting United States District Judge Keith P. Ellison ordered Flores-Martinez and Padilla-Perez to serve sentences of 46 and 50 months in federal prison, respectively. As illegal aliens, both are expected to face deportation proceedings following release from prison. In sentencing the pair, Judge Ellison commented that “both of these defendants have caused me great unease.”
In April 2012, Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted an undercover operation in which they posed as assault rifle magazine dealers, willing to sell the items for illegal export into Mexico. Padilla-Perez contacted the agents and placed his order for 650 high-capacity AK-47 assault rifle magazines which he said he wanted to smuggle into Mexico for which he agreed to pay $19,500 in cash. On April 19, 2012, he met with the undercover agents at a parking lot in Laredo. He showed them the money and told the agents he had already secured a Mexican truck driver who was going to smuggle the magazines into Mexico in a semi-tractor. Flores-Martinez, the Mexican truck driver, had arrived at the same parking lot at Padilla-Perez’s request and was waiting for the hand-off.
Padilla-Perez inspected the contents of nine suitcases brought by the agents, which were packed with the 652 magazines. He and the agents then walked over to Flores-Martinez who received the suitcases and hid them in the cab of his semi-tractor. Padilla-Perez handed the undercover agents a white plastic bag containing $19,500 cash. Flores-Martinez ultimately drove to one of the international bridges in Laredo where the items were discovered, and he was subsequently arrested.
At sentencing today, Flores-Martinez maintained Padilla-Perez promised to pay him $1,500 for smuggling the merchandise into Mexico.
Both men have remained in federal custody since the day of their arrest where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The matter was investigated by HSI and ATF in conjunction with the Laredo Police Department, Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection and the Department of State. 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.