Judge sentences Roma man to 51 months in rifle case

McALLEN — A Roma man will serve more than four years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to illegally smuggle firearms over a period of more than two years.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Alexis Lopez to 51 months in prison during a sentencing hearing Tuesday morning, in which a federal agent testified that they began watching the defendant in 2015 after he tried to purchase a grenade launcher in Houston.

But Lopez, who pleaded guilty in May to firearms penalties for coordinating the straw purchases of four .50 caliber rifles on his behalf, claimed he had no knowledge that the firearms were headed to Mexico — admitting he sold firearms but did so legally.

But the agent who testified said that in addition to the straw purchases Lopez coordinated, he also negotiated with unidentified people in Mexico the transfer of weapons and marijuana, pointing out Lopez knew the military style firearms were headed south of the border.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said that for a span of more than two years, from 2015 to 2017, the 21-year-old man directed people to buy weapons on his behalf — a total of 10, five of which were recovered in Mexico.

One of those people, Juan Angel Jauregui, 22, of Houston, was sentenced for his own firearms penalty violation in January of this year.

Jauregui admitted to government prosecutors that he had purchased a .50 caliber rifle at the behest of Lopez in April 2017, court records show.

Jauregui’s arrest led agents back to Lopez, who Jauregui said he was going to meet the day he was arrested after purchasing the .50 caliber rifle for Lopez.

“Additionally, (Jauregui) stated that Alexis Lopez gave him instructions as to the type of firearm to purchase, provided him with money to the .50 caliber rifle from the FFL in McAllen, Texas, and was going to pay him for doing so,” the complaint states. “Furthermore, (Jauregui) admitted he made false statements on ATF Form 4473 when he stated he was the actual purchaser of the firearm, when in fact he was purchasing the firearm for Alexis Lopez.”

Prosecutors said in some instances Lopez attempted to conceal his identity, claiming to be either Jason Lu, or Brando Lu.

When agents arrested Lopez, they found him in possession of three cell phones — two of which contained text message conversations related to the coordination of straw purchases between Lopez and other men, the agent testified.

Lopez, who has been in custody since his arrest in April 2017, will also serve an additional three years of supervised release upon completion of this prison sentence.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations jointly conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Requénez prosecuted the case, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.