2 Await Sentencing in Conspiracy to Purchase, Smuggle Grenade Launcher

Posted: Updated: Jan 11, 2018 11:23 PM

BROWNSVILLE – Two people are awaiting sentencing for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to purchase and smuggle firearms into Mexico. One of those weapons was a grenade launcher.

Three of their co-conspirators already know their fate.

On Wednesday, a U.S. District Court judge sentenced Jose Luis Mendez to 13 months in prison for his alleged role in the conspiracy. 

"Unfortunately, requests like this are not at all uncommon," said Nicole Strong, a Bureau Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms spokesperson. 

According to the 19-page superseding indictment, Oscar Freddy Garcia, Jorge Cortez-Trujillo, Dulce Maria Rippstine, Juan Martin Segura-Olvera and Mendez conspired to acquire semi-automatic rifles and a grenade launcher and smuggle them into Mexico.

The indictment states the individuals negotiated with ATF and Homeland Security Investigations agents on the terms of purchase for these weapons. 

It goes on to describe meetings in public spaces to exchange weapons in Los Fresnos.

The indictment says the conspirators also committed other crimes, including the straw purchase of firearms from licensed retailers, unlawful possession of a firearm by an alien without status in the U.S. and illegal reentry of previously deported or removed aliens.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS went to a Rio Grande Valley weapons expert to learn more about the weapons in this case. We'll call him Santiago. He said grenade launchers are "destructive devices." 

This is what the US code calls an explosive or incendiary class of weapons which must be registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. 

"You got to have a license," said Santiago. "You got to have either a manufacturer’s license or a dealer's license, class three dealer's license, which is very, very controlled and regulated by Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms."

Santiago tells us these weapons can also be purchased as collector's items with the appropriate licenses. He says in the wrong hands, these weapons can cause severe damage. 

"That can be very destructive," he said. "I mean when you get into high explosive rounds, well you can take out, you know a big room. You can do a lot of damage with a high explosive round."

Garcia and Trujillo were sentenced in 2017.

Segura-Olvera has yet to enter a guilty plea.

Rippstine is scheduled to be sentenced on Mar. 14. 

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