Valley man gets 2 years for smuggling thousands of rounds of ammo - Brownsville Herald: Valley

Valley man gets 2 years for smuggling thousands of rounds of ammo

BY LORENZO ZAZUETA-CASTRO STAFF WRITER | Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2019 9:00 pm

McALLEN — A Pharr man learned that he will serve more than two years in prison for his role in an attempt to smuggle over 16,000 rounds of ammunition into Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Abel Hernandez, 46, to a 27-month prison term in connection with his June 2017 arrest on federal ammunition charges, court records show.

Hernandez, of Pharr, and another man, Raul Peña Sanchez, 28, of Edinburg, were arrested in June 2017 when they tried to smuggle into Mexico several thousand rounds of ammo, according to a criminal complaint.

Peña and Hernandez were arrested attempting to conceal and transport the ammunition after purchasing it earlier that day at a McAllen sporting goods store, according to the complaint.

“After arriving at the sporting goods store, agents were able to verify that Hernandez had made the significant purchase of ammunition,” the complaint states.

Agents watched as Hernandez entered the passenger side of a pickup truck, a silver Dodge Charger, driven by a man later identified as Peña, according to the complaint.

The pair then drove from the sporting goods store to a parking lot in Hidalgo near the intersection of Coma Avenue and International Boulevard.

In the parking lot, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents observed the men load the ammunition into the engine compartment of a second vehicle, a Chevrolet pickup truck with Mexican plates, the court record shows.

Peña got back into the Charger and Hernandez jumped in the pickup truck and headed toward the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, at which time HSI agents made U.S. Customs and Border Protection aware of the situation.

The complaint further states that CBP officers at the port of entry “interdicted and stopped (the Charger) as it attempted to exit the United States into Mexico in order to conduct an outbound inspection.”

Hernandez, driving the pickup truck, tried to evade CBP officers who attempted to stop the vehicle to conduct an outbound inspection and made a sharp right turn across traffic onto a side street, the complaint read.

Eventually, authorities caught up to Hernandez and Peña and detained them.

During a subsequent interview with the men, Hernandez admitted to buying approximately 2,080 rounds of 7.62×39 mm caliber ammunition from the sporting goods store in McAllen with Peña’s help.

Authorities only found roughly 2,000 rounds on the pair at the time of arrest, but the court noted during Peña’s sentencing hearing in March 2018 that authorities were able to confirm through surveillance video at the various sporting goods stores that the pair had previously purchased more than 16,000 rounds of ammunition — most of it transported into Mexico in past occasions.

Peña was sentenced last year in late March, and is currently serving a 70-month prison sentence. He will also serve three years of supervised release, court records show.

In addition to Hernandez’s two-year sentence, will serve an additional three years of supervised release.

lzazueta@themonitor.com