Second man sentenced in local gun case

Two additional defendants to learn fates in March

McALLEN — The second of four suspects in a straw purchase scheme involving firearms was sentenced earlier this week.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Gerardo Figueroa to eight months in federal prison during a sentencing hearing Wednesday, records show.

Figueroa is one of four to plead guilty in connection with a gun manufacturing case, court records show.

Figueroa pleaded true in November to one count of an indictment filed in August 2017, related to a gun trafficking and manufacturing ring involving the man and three others.

He is the second person sentenced in connection with the case. Brandon “Viper” Baźan-Rodriguez pleaded guilty to the smuggling charge in November 2017 and was sentenced in March 2018 to 60 months in federal prison, records show.

Baźan-Rodriguez, Carlos Ramzel Maldonado, Rachel Alene Soto and Figueroa were all named in the original indictment on a variety of charges, including smuggling goods, import and manufacturing charges, as well as for their individual roles in purchasing four semi-automatic rifles and two pistols before attempting to smuggle them into Mexico, court records show.

Soto and Ramzel Maldonado, who also pleaded guilty to the smuggling charge in November 2017, are scheduled for sentencing in March, records show.

Government prosecutors allege that Figueroa, who faced 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 read.

“(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 will also be required to serve two years of supervised release, as well as participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program, court notes show.