Brownsville man gets 32 months in ‘grenade launcher’ case

Defendant is second to be sentenced in connection with failed smuggling bid

McALLEN — The second of two Brownsville men accused of playing a role in the attempt to smuggle a grenade launcher into Mexico was sentenced Tuesday afternoon, court records show.

Miguel Angel Gutierrez stood before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez on Tuesday for sentencing in connection with federal gun charges related to his May arrest, which stemmed from an attempt to smuggle a grenade launcher into Mexico.

Alvarez handed the 23-year-old man a 32-month prison sentence more than four months after he pleaded guilty to violation of the registration and licensing requirements related to the export of defense materials, which is count 2 of the indictment filed against him.

The Brownsville native was arrested late last May at a port of entry in Brownsville attempting to cross into Mexico with a grenade launcher barrel inside his vehicle.

Three days earlier, federal agents had received a tip about a launcher barrel expected to be delivered to an unidentified man, later identified as Jose Martin Carmona-Gonzalez, in Brownsville, according to the complaint against the two men.

Agents with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations seized an M203 launcher barrel from Gutierrez. The barrel had been mailed to Carmona-Gonzalez a few days before.

Carmona-Gonzalez, 45, of Brownsville, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Aug. 2, court records show.

He was subsequently sentenced to 30 months in prison on Nov. 27, court records show.

On May 18, agents approached Carmona-Gonzalez, who they had under surveillance, when he arrived at a mailbox drop to pick up what later turned out to be the launcher barrel.

In his interview with agents, Carmona-Gonzalez told agents the barrel was supposed to be smuggled into Mexico by someone else.

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 courier ended up being unavailable to transport the launcher into Mexico, and another courier, which later turned out to be Gutierrez, was sent to pick up the launcher.

On May 21, Carmona-Gonzalez received word that the courier would meet with him so that he could hand off the barrel.

The two men met at a retail clothing store in Brownsville, where the repackaged launcher was handed over to Gutierrez, who then made his way to the Brownsville Gateway Port of Entry, the complaint states.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working the port received word that Gutierrez was headed into Mexico; they approached Gutierrez and detained him.

During his interview with authorities, Gutierrez said that he had been recruited by an unnamed co-conspirator in Mexico 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.

The defendant, who had been free on bond pending his sentencing hearing, will also be required to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison sentence, court notes show.

The case was prosecuted by U.S. Assistant Attorney Robert Wells. Assistant Federal Public Defender Joe. G. Jacinto represented Gutierrez in the case.