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Monday, 13 February 2012

The story behind the weapons used in Mexico to kill ICE Special Agent Jaime Jorge Zapata continues to unfold.

13:10 |

Zapata, a native of Brownsville, died a year ago this Wednesday.
Two of three weapons recovered from the site of the attack on Zapata and fellow agent Victor Avila have been traced to Texas, federal court records show. Avila was wounded but survived. Both agents worked for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement out of Laredo and were on temporary assignment in Mexico when the attack occurred.
Court documents also indicate that drug-trafficker-turned-informant Manuel Gomez Barba of Baytown facilitated the exportation to Mexico of one of the weapons, a rifle resembling an AK-47.
A straw purchaser bought the gun on Gomez Barba’s behalf on Aug. 20, 2010, from J.J.’s Pawn Shop in Beaumont.
Gomez Barba arranged transfer of the gun to Mexico.
It was established last year that another gun, also similar to an AK-47 and also used in the attack on Zapata, was traced to Otilio Osorio of Lancaster. He bought it Oct. 10, 2010, from Off Duty Enterprise Inc., in Joshua, Texas.
Gomez Barba pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Texas and was sentenced April 5, 2011, to 108 months in a federal penitentiary.
On Jan. 30 this year, he was sentenced to 100 more months on a charge involving exporting firearms to Mexico for use by the Zetas criminal organization. That sentencing occurred in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Osorio pleaded guilty this past Oct. 25 to weapons violations. He awaits sentencing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
The Herald’s review of court documents shows that Gomez Barba was cooperating with narcotics investigators in June 2010 and was released from federal custody pending trial on a drug charge without objection from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas.
Throughout this time and afterwards, four men were buying AK-47-type rifles and other firearms for Gomez Barba and at his direction in the Southern District of Texas. One of these guns was used in the attack on Zapata and Avila.
Two hit squads, from the Zetas attacked Zapata and Avila while they rode in an U.S. government vehicle in the stateof San Luis Potosí, a hotbed of warring between drug cartels for control of drug-trafficking routes.
While awaiting sentencing on the weapons trafficking case, Gomez Barba objected to the government’s presentencing report on him, which noted that one of the weapons he had trafficked had been used to murder Zapata.
“Otilio Osorio pled guilty to the weapon that killed Special Agent Jaime Zapata,” Gomez Barba’s attorney, Leroy H. Simms, wrote in objecting to the presentencing report.
Osorio maintained that a connection had not been made placing him in a drug cartel, and that evidence was not produced linking him to a weapon that killed Zapata.
In this way, the federal cases against Gomez Barba and Osorio converged.
Gomez Barba drug case
A Drug Enforcement Administration agent filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, against Manuel Gomez Barba on June 18, 2010, charging that on April 20, 2010, he conspired in Jefferson County to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
The complaint was filed after one of Gomez Barba’s customers decided to cooperate with law enforcement. The customer had sold some of the drugs she purchased from Gomez Barba to an undercover narcotics agent of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
The customer led law enforcement to Gomez Barba in late June 2010. He was arrested in Baytown after completing a drug transaction.
“Upon making that arrest, the defendant was advised (of) his rights . . . and asked if he would cooperate with investigating officers. The defendant waived his Miranda rights and elected to cooperate,” the federal court record shows.
Gomez Barba arranged a drug buy in a supervised transaction which led to the arrest of two men, not identified in the court record.
Upon Gomez Barba’s arrest June 18, 2010, he was detained without bond when the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that he was a serious flight risk, had a pending felony charge, and to ensure the safety of the community.
But he was released on bail after the government withdrew its motion for detention on July 26, 2010. The court sealed Gomez Barba’s appearance bond and conditions of release.
Gomez Barba returned to court Oct. 18, 2010, to plead guilty to the drug charge and he continued free on bail pending sentencing.
A sentencing date was not even set at the time.
It could not be determined how long he cooperated with law enforcement.
Gomez Barba weapons case
While the federal drug case against Manuel Gomez Barba was pending in the Eastern District of Texas, he was indicted along with other defendants Feb. 8, 2011, in the Southern District of Texas for weapons trafficking. He was arrested Feb. 17, 2011.
He was charged with organizing weapons purchases assisted by straw purchasers and knowing that these would be exported to Mexico. The indictment states that the conspiracy began around June 1, 2010, and continued through September 2010. Approximately 44 weapons were purchased.
The indictment shows that federal investigators at first believed that the weapons were going to the Gulf Cartel.
A superseding indictment was returned May 18, 2011, where Gomez Barba also was specifically charged with exporting firearms, but this time the time frame was from about June 1, 2010, through Feb. 25, 2011.
Feb. 25, 2011, was when one of the weapons at the crime scene in Mexico was traced to one of Gomez Barba’s straw purchasers.
The superseding indictment states that the weapons were going to the Zetas criminal organization.
The straw purchasers were indicted and identified as Sergio Escobedo, Thomas Brian Lawson, Blandon Darrick Shaffer and Robert Riendfliesh.
The four were released on unsecured bonds shortly after their arrests in early 2011. They pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to purchase the weapons and they all received probated sentences in January this year. Escobedo, Lawson and Shaffer each received five-year probated sentences. Riendfliesh, who the record indicates bought the weapon on Gomez Barba’s behalf that turned up at the crime scene, received a four-year probated sentence.
The plea agreements could not be accessed through the court’s electronic public record system.
“I cannot comment beyond what is public record in the case nor comment on sealed matters by the court,” Angela Dodge with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said. “We also do not provide commentary on sentences imposed or offer our opinion on court matters.”
Osorio weapons case
A special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives filed a complaint against Otilio Osorio, Ranferi Osorio and Kelvin Leon Morrison on Feb. 27, 2011 – after it had been learned two days earlier that one of the weapons at the murder site had been traced to Otilio Osorio. The men had been under observation since at least November 2010, when the DEA contacted ATF to ask that agency to provide a confidential informant to transport guns from Dallas to Laredo. The related to the DEA investigation into the Zetas.
The Osorios, Morrison, and Angel Pablo Monroy, Rosendo Quinones, Luis Carbajal, Eder Talamantes and Kevin Bueno were indicted in the Northern District of Texas in March 23, 2011, charged with conspiring to make false statements to firearms dealers, and possessing firearms with obliterated serial numbers, beginning July 2010 through at least November 2010.
This was followed by a superseding indictment May 4, 2011, that gave new dates of the conspiracy — June 2010 through February 2011.
Otilio Osorio pleaded guilty to three counts of a 21-count federal indictment. The other defendants also pleaded guilty to one or two weapons violations from the 20 counts they were charged with.
The Osorios and Morrison are detained, awaiting sentencing. The government’s presentencing report for Otilio Osorio refers to 207 different weapons transactions.
Monroy, Quinones, Carbajal, Talamantes and Bueno were released on personal recognizance bonds since May 11, 2011. Their sentencing also is pending.
Both operations, that of Gomez and that of Osorio, are said to have occurred from June 2010 through February 2010. None of the straw purchasers are in custody. :Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

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