Grand jury charges alleged gunrunners

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A federal grand jury in McAllen, Texas, has charged two men arrested while allegedly trying to cross 270 concealed firearms to Mexico over the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge on Sept. 6.

Wednesday’s indictment accuses Jose Luis Pacheco and Alex Santos-Lopez of exporting merchandise from the United States without a license or authorization. Santos allegedly told Homeland Security Investigations agents the two were hired to transport the guns to Mexico by undisclosed parties for a $5,000 fee to be split evenly.

An inventory of the guns seized and now placed in forfeiture proceedings shows the firearms were worth much more than what the men were allegedly going to get for their delivery.

The list attached to the indictment includes Century Arms and SAIGA brands AK-47 style rifles selling on retail for between $749 to $2,276 each. It also includes MAK-90 rifles retailing for $1,399, AR-15s, dozens of 9mm semi-automatic handguns, and 70 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotguns.

The seizure came during an “outbound” inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Donna bridge. These searches of vehicles, which can be random or in response to information received, “target the movement of unreported currency, weapons, ammunition and other violations,” according to the CBP website.

Records show the Sept. 6 seizure involved the firearms, individual gun barrels, rifle scopes, pistol grips, mounting rails, slides, stocks and more than 200 ammo magazines. The guns, bullets and accessories were concealed in the false compartments of the GMC pickup truck the men were driving and in two 45-gallon water hearing being hauled in a trailer, court documents show.

Pacheco and Santos-Lopez face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. Their arraignment in U.S. Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas is scheduled for Oct. 11.

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