Two Sentenced for Firearms Trafficking
LAREDO, Texas – A Laredo man and a female Mexican national have been ordered to federal prison for their roles in the trafficking of firearms, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Claudia Raquel Herrera-Ibarra, 35, of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Jonathan James Ruiz, 24, of Laredo, pleaded guilty July 14, 2016. Herrera-Ibarra admitted to possession of firearms by an illegal alien, while Ruiz entered a plea to making false statements in connection with the purchase of firearms.
Following a hearing late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo ordered Ruiz and Herrera-Ibarra to serve 60 and 84 months in prison, respectively. At the hearing, Herrera-Ibarra asked the court for a lower sentence, claiming she was a minor participant who took orders from cartel members in Mexico. Judge Marmolejo noted that Herrera-Ibarra had recruited others to buy firearms for her and demonstrated a high level of sophistication in her operation. The court further commented that the acts of both defendants directly affected the citizens of Mexico as well as the people of the United States. Ruiz will also serve three years of supervised release following his prison term, while Herrera-Ibarra is expected to face deportation proceedings following her sentence.
Both defendants had previously admitted to unlawfully conspiring with each other and others to fraudulently and knowingly acquire assault rifles and pistols for illegal export from the United States to Mexico. Herrera-Ibarra hired Ruiz and others to purchase civilian versions of military assault rifles and pistols between Dec. 13, 2015, and March 19, 2016, from various firearms stores in Laredo. She then illegally smuggled or hired others to smuggle the firearms to associates in Mexico who solicited the firearms. These associates were primarily members of the Los Zetas criminal organization operating in Mexico.
Herrera-Ibarra paid Ruiz between $150 and $400 for buying each firearm. Ruiz admitted he ultimately bought 25 firearms for her and that he had falsely certified on each firearms form that he was the actual purchaser of the weapons.
Herrera-Ibarra was arrested April 1, 2015, in the parking lot of a sporting goods store in north Laredo after receiving two AR-15 semi-automatic rifles from an undercover agent whom she had hired and paid to buy the firearms. Herrera-Ibarra acquired at least 27 firearms which she exported illegally to Mexico. At least two firearms were intercepted during this investigation prior to being exported to Mexico.
Herrera-Ibarra has been and remains in federal custody. Ruiz was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined at a later date.
Omar Rolando Castillo, 30, another co-conspirator named in a separate indictment, has also pleaded guilty and is pending sentencing before U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaña.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Laredo Police Department and Webb County Sheriff’s Office. Several local officers and deputies have been cross-designated as task force officers working directly with federal agencies, assisting in the investigation of these and other crimes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose Homero Ramirez is prosecuting the cases.