McALLEN — The fourth and final person to plead guilty in connection with a gun manufacturing case will be sentenced next year, court records show.
That news came last week when Gerardo Figueroa pleaded true to one count of an indictment filed in August 2017, related to a gun trafficking and manufacturing ring involving the man and three others.
Figueroa, who has been in custody since his arrest in late October, stood before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez Nov. 29 and changed his plea from not guilty to a federal importing and manufacturing charge, to guilty, according to court notes.
He was one of four people indicted more than a year ago, last August, in connection with a gun smuggling conspiracy.
Brandon “Viper” Baźan-Rodriguez, Carlos Ramzel Maldonado, Rachel Alene Soto, and Figueroa were all named in the indictment, charging them with a variety of charges, including smuggling goods, and import and manufacturing charges, for their individual roles in purchasing four semi-automatic rifles, and two pistols, and then attempting to smuggle them into Mexico, court records show.
Baźan-Rodriguez, who pleaded guilty to the smuggling charge in November 2017, was sentenced this March to 60 months in federal prison, records show.
Soto and Ramzel Maldonado, who also pleaded guilty to the smuggling charge last November, are scheduled for sentencing in mid-January.
Government prosecutors allege that Figueroa, who was charged with the import charge, lied on a federal form when he stated that a semi-automatic weapon he purchased at a Pharr sporting goods store was for him, and that he was going to the owner of the Century Arms, model RAS47, rifle, the court document states.
“(Figueroa) knowingly made and aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, or induced, or procured the commission of the making of a false and fictitious written statement to Academy Sports & Outdoors, which statement was intended and likely to deceive Academy Sports & Outdoors as a fact material to the lawfulness of the sale of the firearms..,” the record states.
Prosecutors allege the purchase took place on April 11, 2017, in Pharr.
Ramzel Maldonado and Soto were also accused of lying on the federal form when they purchased the same model semi-automatic rifle, on different dates between April and May 26, 2017, records show.
Weapons and ammunition, like the ones involved in this case, purchased legally and illegally in the U.S. are often times smuggled into Mexico, and end up in the hands of criminals, exacerbating the violence perpetrated by drug cartel organizations as a result of the drug trade.
Figueroa is scheduled back before a judge Feb. 20, for his sentencing hearing.
READ THE INDICTMENT BELOW