October 09, 2012
Contact: Diana Apodaca
Phone Number: (915) 832-6000
Federal Prison Sentences Handed Down In Columbus, NM Firearms Trafficking Investigation
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Special Agent in Charge, Joseph Arabit, Drug Enforcement Administration-El Paso Division, and United States Attorney Robert Pitman announced that in Las Cruces, NM, today, United States District Judge Robert C. Brack sentenced four defendants to federal prison for their roles in a firearms trafficking operation. Judge Brack sentenced 42 year old Columbus, NM, resident Alberto Rivera to 90 months incarceration followed by three years of supervised release; 27 year old Palomas, Mexico, resident Manuel Ortega to 70 months incarceration followed by three years of supervised release; 31year old Columbus resident Miguel Carrillo to 46 months incarceration followed by three years of supervised release; and, 32 year old Columbus resident Gabriela Gutierrez to 24 months incarceration followed by three years of supervised release.
In July 2011, Rivera, Ortega, and Carrillo pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy, false statements and firearms smuggling charges. On April 4, 2012, Gabriela Gutierrez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to smuggle firearms and making a false statement in the acquisition of a firearm. According to court records, from approximately July 2010 to February 2011, the defendants were involved in a firearms straw purchasing and smuggling scheme spearheaded by former Village of Columbus Trustee Blas Gutierrez. Approximately 193 firearms, primarily AK-47 type pistols and 9 mm pistols, were fraudulently purchased from Ian Garland, owner of Chaparral Guns in Chaparral, NM, by Blas Gutierrez and others, including Rivera, Carrillo, and former Village of Columbus mayor Eddie Espinoza, Ricardo Gutierrez, and Eva Gutierrez. Each falsely stated on ATF Form 4473 that he or she was the actual purchaser of the firearms . Court records also reveal that these straw purchasers had reason to know that the purchased firearms were illegally destined to people in Mexico. Gabriela Gutierrez’ role was recruiting one straw purchaser and paying other straw purchasers for their criminal efforts.
To date, eight of 12 convicted defendants have been sentenced. Former Village of (NM) Police Chief Angelo Vega, Blas Gutierrez, Ricardo Gutierrez and Eva Gutierrez are still awaiting sentencing. Eva Gutierrez’s sentencing, originally scheduled for today, was continued until a later date. No other sentencing dates have been scheduled.
The investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and (ATF), Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security (ICE-HSI) and the Drug Enforcement (DEA) with assistance from the Comandante Chihuahua State Police in Palomas, Mexico, and the Secretariat of Public Security in Juarez, Mexico. The U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, New Mexico State Police, Las Cruces Police Department, El Paso Police Department as well as other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies also provided assistance during the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Western District of Texas Assistant United States Attorneys Greg McDonald and Steve Spitzer.The DEA El Paso Division encourages parents and their children to visit the following interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov