Pasadena man sentenced to federal prison for smuggling guns to Zetas, cartel

March 8, 2012 at 4:01 p.m.
Updated March 8, 2012 at 9:09 p.m.

A Pasadena man was sentenced in Victoria to seven years in federal prison for conspiracy to smuggle firearms into Mexico.

During a Wednesday hearing before Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey, Saul Salinas Salazar, 26, was sentenced to 84 months in prison for conspiring to smuggle and for making false statements with regards to purchasing firearms, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office news release.

Rainey also sentenced others in the organization, including Jose Santos Maldonado, 27; Tomas Garza, 29; and Carlos Castro Jr., 22, all of Pasadena; and Rogelio Benito Villarreal III, 23, and David Miranda, 24, both of Houston.

Cruz Perez III, 23, also of Houston, will be sentenced May 14.

Maldonado was sentenced to 21 months in prison, while Garza, Castro, Villarreal and Miranda will serve various terms of probation, according to the release.

Salazar pleaded guilty on July 5 to smuggling the guns, mostly AR-15 rifles, into Mexico for the Zeta criminal organization and the Gulf Cartel and making false statements.

From November 2009 to January 2010, Salazar was responsible for the purchase of more than 60 firearms including a DPMS AR-10, .308 caliber rifle that was seized in Matamoros, Mexico in January 2010.

In March 2010, two more weapons purchased by this group were seized and identified by the Mexican authorities in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, as used in shootouts with the Mexican Marines and the Los Zetas Drug Cartel, during which 14 people were killed.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patricia Hubert Booth.



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