A Texan from Brownsville was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison for attempting to smuggle a grenade launcher barrel into Mexico last year.
Miguel Angel Gutierrez appeared before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez in McAllen Tuesday where she handed him almost two and half years behind bars on federal gun charges for violating registration and licensing requirements related to the export of defense materials, according to the criminal court documents. He will also be required to serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term.
Gutierrez, 23, is the second of two Brownsville men to plead guilty to their roles in trying to unlawfully transport an M203 grenade launcher barrel out of the United States.
On May 18, as part of an ongoing firearms trafficking investigation, special agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) encountered the other defendant in this case, Jose Martin Carmona-Gonzalez, 45, at a mailbox drop where he picked up what turned out to be the launcher tube.
Carmona-Gonzalez consented to a search of his vehicle which resulted in the discovery of a package addressed to a third party. Carmona-Gonzalez said the package contained a grenade launcher tube. The unsealed criminal complaint pertaining to his case stated that Carmona-Gonzalez allowed special agents to open the package, uncovering the M203 equipment.
In a subsequent interview, Carmona-Gonzalez told the feds he was contacted by an unnamed co-conspirator in Mexico and the launcher barrel was supposed to be smuggled by someone else. Carmona-Gonzalez said he knew it was illegal to smuggle the barrel, according to court documents. Special agents seized and repackaged the barrel.
Then, on May 21, Carmona-Gonzalez was contacted by the unnamed co-conspirator in Mexico, advising the M203 launcher barrel was ready to be picked up and smuggled into Mexico. The unnamed co-conspirator said he would send a courier to get the tube, according to court documents. That was Gutierrez.
The Brownsville Herald reported the two men met at a local clothing store where Carmona-Gonzalez turned over the repackaged launcher barrel to Gutierrez.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, tipped off by federal agents that Gutierrez was headed their way, detained him for questioning at the Brownsville Gateway Port of Entry when he “attempted to smuggle the package from the United States into Mexico by walking across the U.S./Mexico International Boundary,” according to the criminal complaint.
Later, Gutierrez told them he “had been recruited by an unnamed co-conspirator in Mexico to smuggle a tube used for launching grenades” into Mexico in exchange for monetary compensation. He, too, acknowledged what he was trying to do was illegal. Federal agents arrested Gutierrez.
On August 2, Carmona-Gonzalez pleaded guilty to the same charge as Gutierrez. In late November, Carmona-Gonzalez was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
Court records stated that M203 grenade launcher tubes are “determined to be a defense article” by the U.S. Munitions List and are regulated for export pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act.