Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grand jury indicts New Mexico woman for firearms trafficking

Las Cruces — A Columbus, N.M., woman was indicted on Friday for allegedly conspiring with her husband and others to purchase firearms in the United States knowing that the weapons were intended to be smuggled into Mexico.

Gabriela Gutierrez is named in a five-count indictment in connection with a firearms trafficking investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Gutierrez is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of making false statements to acquire firearms, and two counts of smuggling goods from the United States.

The indictment alleges that from January 2010 to March 2011, Gutierrez conspired with her husband Blas Gutierrez and others to purchase firearms in the United States knowing they were intended to be smuggled into Mexico. The indictment further alleges that on Feb. 12, 2011 Gabriela Gutierrez conspired to recruit another individual to straw purchase 10 firearms from the "Chaparral Guns" store in Chaparral, N.M. She subsequently paid $1,000 to that individual for the purchase.

In addition, on Jan. 15, 2011, she allegedly paid about $1,000 to another straw purchaser to buy 10 firearms also from Chaparral Guns. If convicted, Gutierrez faces statutory maximum sentences of five years in federal prison for each of the conspiracy and false statement charges, and 10 years in federal prison for the smuggling charges.

To date, 12 individuals have entered guilty pleas in connection with this investigation including 10 of the 11 defendants charged by indictment in March 2011. The lone fugitive, Ignacio Villalobos of Columbus, N.M., is charged with conspiracy to smuggle firearms and two substantive counts of firearms smuggling. Sentencing dates have not yet been scheduled.

The following agencies participated in this investigation: ICE HSI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with assistance from the Comandante Chihuahua State Police in Palomas, Mexico, and the Secretariat of Public Security in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The following agencies also assisted the investigation: U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Border Patrol, New Mexico State Police, and Las Cruces and El Paso police departments.