Jury in Del Rio Convicts Man in Firearms Smuggling Operation
In Del Rio, a jury convicted 48–year-old ringleader Eduardo Hinojosa (aka “Lalo”), a U.S. Citizen residing in Piedras Negras, Mexico, of attempting to smuggle firearms and an assortment of ammunition from the U.S. into Mexico announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden.
Returning their verdict late yesterday afternoon following a three-day trial, jurors convicted Hinojosa of four counts of aiding and abetting the smuggling of goods from the U.S. and one count of providing a firearm to a prohibited person. Evidence presented at trial revealed that Hinojosa and three Mexican citizens residing in Piedras Negras were involved in a firearms smuggling scheme for profit. Prior to jury selection, Hinojosa’s co-defendants 43-year-old Carlos Mendoza-Hernandez (aka “Pepo”) and 26–year-old Gily Ajin-Cordova pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person; and, 25-year-old Elizabeth Cervantes-Mateos pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the smuggling of goods from the U.S.
According to testimony and court records, on April 7, 2015, investigators observed Hinojosa loading ammunition and firearms into a vehicle at an Eagle Pass business owned by Mendoza’s family. Authorities subsequently seized a .243 caliber rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition in various calibers from inside that vehicle. At the time of the seizure, authorities arrested the vehicle’s occupants--Cervantes and Ajin. Agents later observed defendants Hinojosa and Mendez unloading boxes into a storage facility in Eagle Pass. Subsequently, authorities arrested Hinojosa and Mendez and a consensual search of that storage facility revealed approximately 750 rounds of shotgun shells. Testimony also revealed that the defendants were aware that the firearms and ammunition were ultimately destined for Mexico and that the defendants were aware that it is unlawful to export those items without a license.
All four defendants have remained in federal custody since their arrest on April 7, 2015.
Each charge upon conviction calls for up to ten years in federal prison. Sentencings before U.S. District Judge Alia Moses in Del Rio are scheduled as follows: Cervantes – 2:00pm on December 8, 2016; Mendoza – 11:00am on December 12, 2016; Ajin – 11:00am on February 1, 2017; and, Hinojosa – 2:00pm on March 20, 2017.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and, the Maverick County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lewis Thomas and Dan Lee are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.