ATLANTA, GA. - DARIO RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ, 29, of Doraville, Georgia and MANUEL GAMEZ-VALENZUELA, 46, of Atlanta, Georgia, were sentenced today by United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell on charges that they possessed semi-automatic assault rifles that they intended to send to Mexico. RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ was also sentenced for being an illegal alien in possession of firearms. DANIEL BERNAL-PEREZ, 36, of Doraville, Georgia, who was also involved in the scheme to send firearms to Mexico, was sentenced on the charge that he was an illegal alien in possession of firearms.
Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DEA Atlanta Field Division said, “Those who deal dangerous drugs and use weapons to protect their ill-gotten gain are a true menace to society, which holds true for the defendants in this case. Because of their criminal actions, they will spend well-deserved time in prison.”
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “The illegal flow of firearms from Atlanta to Mexico must be stopped. These trafficked firearms frequently end up in the hands of violent, lawless individuals who use them to commit violent crimes or further other criminal activity such as drug trafficking. Law enforcement in this district is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who engage in trafficking firearms to Mexico. The defendants sentenced today acquired semi-automatic assault rifles with the intent to transport them to Mexico. Their prosecution and their sentences reflect the seriousness of this offense.”
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Special Agent in Charge Gregory K. Gant, said, “The illegal international transportation of a firearm is a crime that cannot be tolerated, and as demonstrated in this case, we are committed to working with our federal partners to continue pursuing individuals and organizations which seek to circumvent our export laws and engage in this type of gun crime.”
“These individuals conspired to funnel dangerous weapons to Mexico, further contributing the violent activity that is taking place along the Southwest border,” said Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “Stopping the flow of weapons across our borders is a national security issue and a top priority for ICE and we will continue to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to disrupt these kinds of activities.”
BERNAL-PEREZ was sentenced to 7 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. BERNAL-PEREZ was convicted of these charges on January 19, 2011, upon his plea of guilty.
RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ was sentenced to 3 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ was convicted of these charges on January 7, 2011, upon his plea of guilty.
GAMEZ-VALENZUELA was sentenced to 2 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. GAMEZ-VALENZUELA was convicted of these charges on January 7, 2011, upon his plea of guilty.
All three defendants were ordered to be turned over to immigration authorities for deportation upon completion of their sentences.
According to the charges and other information presented in court: Federal agents learned from a confidential source that BERNAL-PEREZ, acting on behalf of GAMEZ-VALENZUELA was attempting to acquire 8-10 semi-automatic firearms to send to Mexico. On January 30, 2010, agents learned from a confidential source that RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ was going to bring firearms to BERNAL-PEREZ's residence in Doraville, Georgia the next day. On January 31, 2010, agents established surveillance on BERNAL-PEREZ's residence. They observed RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ arrive at the residence in a Jeep Cherokee. He was met by BERNAL-PEREZ. A few minutes later GAMEZ-VALENZUELA arrived. The three defendants conversed in the driveway for a short time then went to the Jeep Cherokee and looked at the contents of a long box inside the vehicle. Then agents observed BERNAL-PEREZ and GAMEZ-VALENZUELA go inside the residence. RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ took the long box out of the Cherokee and carried it into the residence. The agents could tell from the way in which RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ carried the box that the box contained heavy items.
A few minutes later, the agents watched RODRIGUEZ-GOMEZ leave the residence carrying the same long box, however, the agents could tell that the box was now empty. BERNAL-PEREZ and GAMEZ-VALENZUELA later left together. The agents obtained and executed a search warrant at the residence. Inside, they found three Norinco, model SKS, 7.62 X 39mm rifles and one Olympic Arms, model MFR, .223 caliber rifle hidden in a closet. All four rifles are semi-automatic assault rifles that had large capacity magazines attached to them.
This case was investigated by Special Agents and Task Force Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Administration with assistance from Special Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Assistant United States Attorney William L. McKinnon, Jr. prosecuted the case.
DEA Atlanta’s SAC Benson encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.