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Laredo News

Five Arrested for Trafficking Military-Grade Firearms to Mexican Cartel

Five individuals were arrested on Wednesday in Laredo, Hebbronville, and Falls City for allegedly trafficking military-grade firearms to a drug cartel in Mexico.

According to court documents, Gerardo Rafael Perez Jr., also known as "Jerry," 23, of Laredo, allegedly coordinated the acquisition of more than 100 firearms across Texas to be smuggled into Mexico and delivered to a drug trafficking cartel in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Perez's organization purportedly used straw purchasers to procure the firearms from various sources in Texas.

Luis Matias Leal, aka "Wicho" or "El Tio," 30, is alleged to have provided cash and instructions to facilitate the conspiracy, while Antonio Osiel Casarez, 26, would smuggle the firearms into Mexico and return to the United States with bulk cash.

The firearms allegedly acquired included FNH SCAR rifles, Barrett .50 caliber rifles, FNH M294S rifles, and M1919 rifles.

Perez, Casarez, Leal, Francisco Alejandro Benavides, 23, and Mark Anthony Trevino Jr., 24, were all named in a superseding indictment filed on March 6 and arrested on March 20.

The five defendants face charges including conspiracy to traffic firearms and conspiracy to straw purchase firearms, with potential penalties ranging up to 25 years in prison.

Additionally, Perez, Casarez, Leal, and Benavides face charges related to conspiracy to smuggle goods from the United States and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, carrying potential penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Jose Emigdio Q. Mendoza, Gerardo Antonio Ibarra Jr., and Gerardo Corona Jr. were named in an earlier indictment. Mendoza was allegedly involved in dealing firearms without a license, selling weapons to members of the Perez conspiracy.

The investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Homeland Security Investigations.

U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas announced the arrests.

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