McALLEN — A Mexican man caught selling “tactical” style weapons to federal undercover agents bound for Mexico was sentenced Wednesday.
Calling it one of the largest cache of guns she’s ever dealt with in her court, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Juan Gerardo Navarro-Gomez to 87 months in prison for his role in negotiating the sale of at least 70 firearms, including thousands of rounds of ammunition all headed to drug cartel organizations in Mexico.
Navarro, who apologized to the court and said it “was the biggest mistake” of his life, pleaded for clemency, saying he never touched the aforementioned firearms and ammo, before Alvarez handed down the more than seven-year prison sentence for the man.
“I was very young when I accepted this offer,” the 21-year-old man said in Spanish through a court interpreter.
Before the sentence was handed down, his attorney, David R. Gorena, emphasized Navarro-Gomez’s non-existent criminal history and said his client never saw the firearms or handled them. Instead, Gorena said his client received photographs of weapons he had intended to sell, which he admits to doing.
But the government, represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Lindenmuth, said despite not physically handling the weapons, Navarro-Gomez had complete control of all of the weapons in question, and in at least one instance ordered other conspirators to transport the guns being negotiated for sale.
Alvarez admonished Navarro-Gomez for his role in the sale of the firearms, stating that he did so knowing the weapons were going to aid organized crime in Mexico, further perpetuating the violence in his home country.
Federal agents began looking into the Mexican national in 2016, and specifically in December 2016 when authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives — undercover agents working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations — purchased two high-caliber sniper rifles from Navarro-Gomez in the parking lot of a McAllen apartment complex, the complaint against him states.
Prior to the sale, Navarro-Gomez, using the WhatsApp application, provided undercover agents posing as potential buyers with photos of the aforementioned rifles, a pair of Barrett Model 82A1, .50 Caliber rifles.
“On Dec. 8, 2016, through Dec. 9, 2016, Navarro used WhatsApp voice messages, text messages, and phone calls to communicate and provide photographs prior to the sale of both firearms for $11,000 each,” the complaint states.
On Dec. 9, 2016, Navarro-Gomez sold both sniper rifles, two hours apart from each other, to two separate undercover agents, for the agreed upon $11,000 each.
Agents continued to keep Navarro-Gomez under surveillance after the December 2016 sale, ultimately arresting him in March of this year, court records show.
After handing down her sentence, Alvarez told Navarro-Gomez that because of his actions he will be locked away, separated from his family — much like the families who suffer loss in Mexico due to the continued violence perpetrated by the cartels there, with weapons provided by people like him.
Navarro-Gomez, who was legally present in the country with a non-immigrant B1/B2 Visa, will be deported upon completion of his prison term.