EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A federal judge has sentenced an El Paso man to 41 months in prison for firearms violations that include the purchase of 49 guns that ended up in Mexico.
According to documents and court testimony, Jose Luis Garcia Jr., 34, bought the 49 guns – ranging from 9mm pistols to DPMS .308-caliber hunter rifles – from licensed dealers in El Paso from December 2019 to August 2020. He bought 29 of those during a five-week period between late June and early August 2020.
Garcia would list his address as 226 Holy Cross in El Paso on the Federal Firearms License forms but was really living in Juarez, Mexico, during that period, federal officials said. He would come over to the United States for just a few hours to purchase guns, then return to Mexico, border crossing records show.
He was detained on Aug. 8, 2020, at the Bridge of the Americas U.S. port of entry by agents from Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives. The federal indictment returned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert F. Castañeda states Garcia agreed to an interview with the agents and told them he had resided in Juarez for about a year and hadn’t lived at the El Paso address for 13 years.
Garcia was asked if he owned any of the 49 guns he purchased and he said no. Court records show he was initially charged with knowingly making false statements on an FFL form. On Tuesday, he was found guilty of one count of dealing firearms without a license.
“As this case readily demonstrates, our office will aggressively pursue firearms violations, particularly when firearms are being placed in the hands of prohibited persons or trafficked to Mexico,” said Ashley C. Hoff, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas.
Mexican officials have often complained about weapons trafficking from the United States into their country. These guns often end up in the hands of drug cartels that have driven the murder rate in Mexico to record numbers in the past two years. Earlier this year, Mexico filed a civil lawsuit against American gun manufacturers for allegedly knowingly and negligently facilitating guns to Mexican criminal organizations.
“The trafficking of illegal firearms and ammunition in the U.S. oftentimes results in weapons falling into the hands of transnational criminal organizations in Mexico. This illicit activity fuels not only crime, but aids in sparking violence on both sides of the border,” said HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge of the El Paso Division Taekuk Cho.
Some court documents remain sealed, so where and with whom the weapons ended up wasn’t publicly disclosed.