McALLEN — A man allegedly paid to purchase rifles and other firearms that were destined for Mexico learned his punishment during a sentencing hearing Tuesday, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Gerardo Arturo McDonald to 24 months in federal prison for his role in the smuggling of weapons, specifically multiple rifles and at least one pistol purchased by another man and handed over to McDonald.
According to the criminal complaint against McDonald paid another man, later identified as Eduard Roel Vazquez, to purchase several firearms in exchange for cash.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations agents detained Vazquez, 26, of McAllen, on Oct. 30, 2017, in connection with an “ongoing firearms trafficking investigation” they were conducting.
During their encounter with Vazquez, who was residing at a home in San Juan, agents obtained consent to search the residence and subsequently found a pistol inside Vazquez’s backpack, the complaint stated.
That same day, during an interview at the local HSI offices, Vazquez spoke to agents without an attorney and stated he had bought five firearms for two men, who he originally did not identify.
“Vazquez stated the unnamed co-conspirators in Mexico provided him with the money to purchase the firearms and told him which specific firearms to purchase,” the document stated. “Vazquez stated he knew the firearms were intended to be smuggled to Mexico because the unnamed co-conspirators in Mexico told Vazquez they would be taking the firearms to Mexico.”
Vazquez met with HSI agents again about two months later and provided the name of one of the men he had worked with.
“On December 14, 2017, Vazquez, under proffer letter, identified (McDonald) as an individual who provided Vazquez with instructions on which firearms to purchase, money to purchase the firearms, and transportation to the Federal Firearms Licensees where the firearms were purchased,” the complaint against the man stated.
Vazquez told HSI agents that after they bought the firearms, he accompanied McDonald and other unnamed participants, and helped smuggle the firearms into Mexico.
About a year after the aforementioned interview between Vazquez and HSI agents, agents arrested McDonald for his alleged role in the trafficking investigation.
McDonald, a U.S. citizen who resides in Pharr, was arrested Oct. 16, 2018, as a result of a federal investigation into the trafficking of firearms into Mexico.
“Special agents reviewed footage from security cameras inside the Federal Firearms Licensees where two of the firearms, which Vazquez stated were smuggled into Mexico were purchased, and the footage revealed Vazquez and McDonald, together inside of said Federal Firearms Licensee during the time of the purchases and then leaving the Federal Firearms Licensee together with the firearms,” the complaint stated.
Agents also recovered receipts from the transaction associated with the purchases, which revealed one firearm purchased, a Century Arms assault-style rifle, which Vazquez stated had been smuggled into Mexico. He said he was paid $600 in exchange for making the straw purchases.
On Oct. 16, 2018, McDonald admitted to HSI agents that he had driven Vazquez to firearm licensees for the purposes of buying firearms on three different occasions, the complaint stated.
He also confirmed picture stills of security footage taken of the two at a firearm licensee’s store were of Vazquez and himself.
In March, Vazquez was sentenced to 38 months in federal prison on one count of attempted exportation of arms and munitions, court records show.
Vazquez, who pleaded guilty to the attempted exportation charge in January 2018 in exchange for the dismissal of his remaining charge, will also be required to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his more than three-year prison term, records show.
McDonald, who pleaded guilty to one count of importing/manufacturing firearms in February of this year, will have to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of the prison term.