McALLEN — A Mission man will serve more than five years in prison for his role in a weapons smuggling operation.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Jesus Alonso Perez to 70 months in prison in connection with a case that involved more than 50 firearms that were smuggled into Mexico likely, the court acknowledged, headed into the arms of drug cartels and further fueling the violence in the country.
With his family in attendance for the Tuesday morning sentencing hearing, some of them openly wept, and wiped away tears, while Perez apologized to the court, and said he had let his parents down by involving himself in the criminal offense.
The 35-year-old man was arrested last November after he admitted in an interview with federal agents that he had purchased and sold on several occasions various firearms to a man who intended to smuggle them illegally into Mexico.
Perez was identified by a co-conspirator named Salvador Calvillo-Ramirez, who federal agents had arrested Sept. 29, 2017, as he attempted to smuggle into Mexico two semi-automatic rifles, a glock, 87 (.223 caliber) rifle magazines, and about 3,455 rounds of ammunition, according to the criminal complaint.
During an interview with agents, Calvillo admitted he traveled from Mexico to the U.S. to acquire the firearms, ammunition and rifle magazines that agents found in his vehicle, and also identified Perez as the person who acquired the aforementioned items.
“Calvillo stated Perez was aware that he intended to illegally smuggle the firearms and ammunition from the United States into Mexico,” the complaint states.
Less than a month later, federal agents interviewed Perez in connection with the Calvillo arrest.
Perez admitted to selling Calvillo the aforementioned seized items, and to selling Calvillo 25 to 30 firearms and other ammunition “within the past several months.”
Crane said the case will have lingering effects as there were more than 50 firearms tied to this case, 50 firearms that will ultimately be used in violence south of the border.
Also sentenced Tuesday in connection with this case was a Mission woman, who the court determined played a minimal role in the smuggling case.
U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents seized 40 rounds of ammunition from Gabriela Hinojosa-De Leon’s residence in McAllen.
“Hinojosa admitted to HSI agents that she was aware of the ammunition within her residence and had previously received ammunition from someone else,” the complaint states.
The 40-year-old woman was sentenced prior to Perez’s hearing, receiving a 12-month sentence from Crane.
Hinojosa-De Leon, who does not legal authority to live in the country, will most likely be deported upon completion of her prison term.
Both Perez and Hinojosa-De Leon pleaded guilty to their respective charges in April of this year, court records show.
Calvillo-Ramirez, who remains in custody since his September 2017 arrest, is scheduled for sentencing later this week, court records show.
Perez, who had been free on a $30,000 bond, asked through his attorney, Mission-based Alejandro Guerra, if he could delay his surrender date. But that was denied by the court and will begin serving his prison sentence immediately.
This post was updated to remove a photo mistakenly published with this story.