Brownsville man gets 30 months in grenade smuggling case

Co-defendant sentencing hearing reset for January

Courts stock

McALLEN — One of two Brownsville men who admitted to participating in a scheme to smuggle a grenade launcher into Mexico has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, court records show.

For his role in the crime, Jose Martin Carmona-Gonzalez was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez. In May, federal agents who had Carmona-Gonzalez under surveillance approached him when he arrived at a mailbox to pick up the launcher barrel.

In his interview with agents, Carmona-Gonzalez said the barrel was supposed to be smuggled into Mexico by someone else, according to a criminal complaint filed against the men.

A subsequent meeting was scheduled with the understanding that an unnamed person in Mexico, who Carmona-Gonzalez was in communication with, was going to send a courier who would then transport the launcher into Mexico.

That Mexican courier ended up being unavailable to transport the launcher into Mexico, and another courier, Miguel Angel Gutierrez, was sent to pick up the launcher.

Gutierrez, 23, of Brownsville, met with Carmona-Gonzalez at a retail clothing store in Brownsville, where the repackaged launcher was handed over to him.

He then made his way to the Brownsville Gateway Port of Entry, the complaint states.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, who were working the port of entry in Brownsville received word that Gutierrez was headed into Mexico, approached Gutierrez and detained him.

During his interview with authorities, Gutierrez said that he had been recruited by an unnamed co-conspirator to smuggle a tube used for launching grenades in exchange for some monetary compensation.

Gutierrez told authorities he knew it was illegal to smuggle the grenade launcher tube into Mexico, the complaint states.

Both men were subsequently charged with three counts of violation of the registration and licensing requirements, records show.

Carmona-Gonzalez pleaded guilty in August to one count of violation of the registration and licensing requirements related to the export of defense materials charge — count 2 of the indictment filed against him, records show.

In exchange the government agreed to dismiss the two remaining counts against Carmona-Gonzalez.

Because Carmona-Gonzalez lacks legal status to remain in the country, he most likely will be deported upon completion of his prison term.

Gutierrez, who remains free on bond and was scheduled for sentencing on Tuesday as well, had his hearing rescheduled after his attorney requested and was granted a short continuance — he is due back for sentencing on Jan. 16, 2019, the record shows.