A group of straw purchasers who allegedly bought more than 100 firearms later trafficked to Mexico has been federally charged, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton.
A straw purchase, as defined by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, involves someone who purchases a gun for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one or for someone who does not want their name associated with the transaction.
Seven individuals were charged via criminal complaint with conspiracy to make false statements to licensed firearm dealers in connection with the acquisition of firearms. Defendants Mario Lara, 28, Oralia Carrizales, 41, Geovanny Garcia, 31, and Darryl Fox, 29, were arrested last week; defendants Gavino Trujillo, 28, and Guadalupe Corona, 29, were arrested Tuesday morning. One defendant remains at large.
“In June, I met with Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and five border state U.S. Attorneys to discuss Operation Southbound, the Justice Department’s signature initiative to disrupt the flow of guns across the U.S. / Mexico border. This case represents our district’s commitment to hold accountable anyone involved in smuggling guns into Mexico,” said U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton. “All too often, guns trafficked across our southern border fall into the hands of cartel bosses and other bad actors who threaten law enforcement and the people they serve. We will not rest until we dismantle those trafficking networks.”
“There is no doubt that the arrest of these seven individuals will lead to a safer Mexico. Their behavior was adding to the bloodshed and carnage that have plagued our neighbors for so long. We have all seen the movies and evening newscasts on the violence. This is how it starts.” stated ATF Dallas Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey C. Boshek II. “The people involved in the trafficking of weapons live amongst you and me. If you suspect someone of illegally running guns, please contact ATF.”
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly purchased guns from federally licensed firearms dealers on behalf of Jose Carlos Rivas-Chiarez, 29, who disassembled the firearms, concealed them inside plastic and towels, and smuggled them to Mexico, either concealed inside tires or through the mail.
Mr. Rivas and his girlfriend, Ana Francisco-Sotelo, 28, were previously charged and pleaded guilty in October 2022 to making false statements during the purchase of a firearm. Mr. Rivas also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Mr. Rivas and Ms. Domingo were sentenced this spring to a combined 32 years in federal prison.
According to court documents, a search of Mr. Rivas’ residence turned up more than 150 empty firearm boxes. Records showed that many of the missing firearms – including FN SCAR rifles, AR-15 style rifles, Glock pistols, and a stolen silencer – had been purchased by the defendants.
In an interview following the search of his home, Mr. Rivas admitted to law enforcement that, as a Mexican citizen unlawfully present in the U.S., “I’m not legal, to be honest, to be buying a gun.” He further admitted that he directed multiple people to purchase firearms on his behalf.
Confronted with text messages between him and at least one of the defendants discussing the pricing and delivery of “toys,” Mr. Rivas admitted that “toys” was a code word for firearms.
Surveillance video recovered from one of the stores revealed that on at least one occasion, Mr. Rivas accompanied a straw purchaser to the gun store to inspect the firearm before the purchase.
A complaint is merely an allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. Mario Lara, Gavino Trujillo, Oralia Carrizales, Geovanny Garcia, Darryl Fox, and Guadalupe Corona are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
If convicted, they face up to 10 years in federal prison.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives’ Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigation’s Dallas Field Office and the Arlington Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Levi Thomas is prosecuting the case.