Biden, fentanil ve göç konulu görüşmeler için Mexico City'ye heyet gönderdi

Feds bust U.S. gang accused of trying to smuggle guns to Sinaloa cartel

Federal prosecutors announced charges Wednesday against five people they say were buying guns in the U.S. and trying to ship them to the Sinaloa cartel, one of Mexico’s major drug and human smuggling syndicates.

Border officers discovered 17 guns, most of them AK-47-style rifles, in a shipment headed from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Durango, Mexico, in February. One was an FN M249S rifle, a commercial version of a military-style light machine gun that retails for more than $10,000.

Authorities said Cortney Highsmith and Steven Martinez bought weapons in January and February, certifying they were the actual purchasers. They then turned guns over to Luis Martinez, Steven’s brother and an illegal immigrant who by law is unable to possess a firearm.

Luis Martinez then worked with Roberto Martinez and Gilberto Hernandez to try to get the weapons into Mexico.

Luis Martinez paid $26,000 to the others, authorities said, and he was working on behalf of Mr. Hernandez, whom Luis Martinez believed was affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel, the government said in court documents.

While guns are readily available in the U.S., they are severely restricted in Mexico. Cartels arrange for their purchase and transfer to Mexico.

Under pressure from Mexico’s government, U.S. authorities have stepped up their efforts to block shipments.

“The impact of straw purchasing and firearms trafficking is rarely limited to a single community or city,” said Brian Mein, the acting special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Those that knowingly put firearms in the hands of violent and dangerous individuals are a threat to all of us.”

Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted the shipment of 17 weapons on Feb. 19 and went searching for the shippers and the original purchasers.

They determined that two of the weapons, with obliterated serial numbers, were bought by Steven Martinez and the rest by Mr. Highsmith.

Authorities spoke with Luis and Roberto Martinez in May and with Steven Martinez in June.

Luis Martinez, who was in the U.S. illegally, has since absconded. Prosecutors say they think he is back in Mexico.

Mr. Hernandez also is an illegal immigrant. A judge has labeled him a flight risk and ordered him detained until trial.