EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Two U.S. citizens have pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to smuggle to Mexico firearms purchased in Texas and Colorado.
The cases involve the so-called “straw” purchases that federal officials on both sides of the border say is how transnational criminal organizations in Mexico get a lot of their guns.
Federal officials took custody of Edwin Alejandro Rodriguez, 21, on May 2 at the Paso del Norte port of entry in El Paso as he came over from Mexico. He agreed to speak to agents with Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who had received information about his possible involvement in gun smuggling, according to court documents.
Rodriguez told the agents he was approached by an individual who offered to pay him for buying guns in the U.S. and transporting them to Mexico. Rodriguez told the agents he made several gun purchases between January and April 2022 and drove them in his vehicle to Juarez, Mexico. Rodriguez told the agents he received $150 for a pistol and $200 to $250 for each rifle.
Rodriguez had previously purchased three firearms on his own, including one in Colorado. He sold them to his contact last February, court documents state. Rodriguez showed the agents a place inside his 2012 Chevrolet Equinox with Chihuahua license plates where he hid the firearms before driving into Mexico, court documents state.
Martin Najera, 30, was taken into custody on May 10 at the Paso del Norte Bridge while returning from Mexico on foot. He was referred to a secondary inspection where the HSI and ATF agents read him his rights and interviewed him.
Najera told the agents he made several firearms purchases in El Paso gun stores and immediately turned over the guns to an individual waiting for him in the parking lot. Najera said he rode in a vehicle with the man to Juarez on three of those occasions, and on one occasion directly sold a gun to an acquaintance of his contact, court records show.
Najera received $100 from his contact for every gun purchased on his behalf, documents state.
Najera and Rodriguez were residing in Juarez at the time of their arrest. Federal officials did not name the individual or individuals who hired them. HSI and ATF continue to investigate the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Denum prosecuted the case as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a multi-agency program to reduce violent crime and gun violence.
The smuggling of firearms from the United States into Mexico prompted the Mexican government to file a multibillion-dollar lawsuit in 2021 alleging negligence on the part of American gun manufacturers. A federal judge in Massachusetts dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying U.S. law protects gunmakers from being sued for the intended use of their products.