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Officers arrest Reynosa man accused of attempting to export gun parts without license

1 year 2 months 3 weeks ago Sunday, May 10 2020 May 10, 2020 May 10, 2020 8:42 AM May 10, 2020 in News - Local
Eli Manuel Espinoza, 23, of Reynosa in a Hidalgo County jail booking photo from September 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office.)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested a Reynosa man last week, when he attempted to cross the border with a secret stash of gun parts, according to court records.

Eli Manuel Espinoza attempted to cross the bridge from Hidalgo to Reynosa on April 30.

Officers sent Espinoza, a 23-year-old United States citizen who lives in Reynosa, to secondary inspection.

Espinoza, though, escaped from the secondary inspection station — driving the wrong way down a one-way street, said Ryan McTaggart, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, who testified Tuesday during Espinoza’s detention hearing.

Officers arrested Espinoza and brought him back to secondary inspection, where they found packages hidden in the car’s engine compartment. The packages contained parts for “approximately four” rifles, including grips, sights and slide mechanisms.

“Basically everything you would need — almost everything you would need to assemble a semi-automatic firearm,” McTaggart said.

Exporting gun parts without a license is a federal crime.

Customs and Border Protection contacted Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which investigated the case.

“He stated that he knew that what was in the packages was illegal, but he did not know specifically what it was,” McTaggart said.

During an interview after his arrest, Espinoza said he owed money to people in Mexico.

“Essentially, he had received threats in the past, he owed a drug debt because he's a user and that's what put him up to this,” said attorney Richard Bruce Gould, who represented Espinoza during the hearing.

Espinoza is charged with attempting to export gun parts without a license. U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby ordered him held without bond.

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