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Brownsville men charged with smuggling semi-automatic firearms to Mexico

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Two Brownsville men have been charged with smuggling guns from Texas to Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.

A federal grand jury in Amarillo on Wednesday indicted Jose Celby Hernandez, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen, and Rene Rangel-Manjarrez, a 33-year-old legal permanent resident, on one count each of conspiracy to smuggle goods from the United States and one count each of smuggling goods from the United States.

According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly purchased multiple firearms – through private sales, from a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL), and from an ATF undercover agent – for the purpose of exporting the guns to Mexico.

In order to avoid attracting undue suspicion, Mr. Hernandez allegedly recruited other individuals, including Mr. Rangel-Manjarrez, to purchase firearms on his behalf.

The straw purchasers, including Mr. Rangel-Manjarrez, allegedly lied on their ATF form 4473s, stating that they were the actual purchasers of the firearms, when they knew they intended to turn the guns over to Mr. Hernandez to be exported to Mexico.

Over a two month period, the pair allegedly purchased at least half a dozen .50 caliber Barrett rifles, a weapon of choice for International Firearms Trafficking Organizations.  These firearms are highly sought after by organizations like the Gulf Cartel for their ability to penetrate armored vehicles, aircraft, concrete shelters, and bullet-resisting targets.  Barrett rifles are capable of engaging targets at ranges of over one mile. 

“These defendants subverted important gun laws and smuggled lethal weapons across our borders,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “This prosecution is a public safety win for communities in the United States and in Mexico.”

“Preventing and disrupting firearms trafficking is a Dallas Field Division priority,” stated ATF Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey C. Boshek II.  “These arrests highlight the ATF and Department of Justice’s combined focus on combatting gun crime under Project Guardian.”

The defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

If convicted, they each face up to 10 years in federal prison.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives’ Dallas Field Division, Homeland Security Investigations, the Irving Police Department and the Dallas Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phelesa Guy is prosecuting the case.

The case was brought under Project Guardian, the Justice Department’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence using federal firearm laws.

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