Justice in Mexico

New Mexico Mayor and Police Chief Are Charged with Smuggling Guns to Mexico

03/29/11 – The mayor and police chief of a New Mexico border town were charged with forming part of a U.S. smuggling ring that sold weapons to drug traffickers across the border in Mexico. The smuggling ring was concentrated in the small town of Columbus, which is located across from Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua. They were arrested during a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents on Thursday March 10. 10 search warrants were issued by federal agents for eight residences, a business, and at the Columbus Police Department. Federal prosecutors have filed 84 counts against the defendants. At least a dozen firearms previously purchased by the defendants were later found in Mexico and traced back to these defendants.

The ATF has led the investigation for the case. According to the indictment that was released, Columbus Mayor Eddie Espinoza, Police Chief Angelo Vega, city representative José Blas Gutiérrez and eight others began collecting weapons as of January 2010 for sale across the border. Between all of the members, at least 200 guns were bought over this 14-month long period. They bought types of guns favored by drug cartels, ranging from 9mm handguns and AK-47-style pistols resembling the rifles, but with shorter barrels and without rear stocks. The weapons were purchased at Chaparral Guns, a federally licensed arms dealer, and sold in bulk of up to 20 at a time. The store’s owner, Ian Garland, was taken into custody and charged with smuggling, making false statements and conspiracy. The raid resulted in the seizure of 40 AK-47 type pistols, 1,580 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, and 30 high-capacity magazines from the defendants before they crossed into Mexico.

For the full ICE report on the case, click here.


AFP and Notimex. “Cae alcalde de Columbus por tráfico de armament.” Milenio. 11 March, 2011.

“Cae alcalde en Nuevo México por tráfico de armas.” El Universal. 10 March, 2011.

“ICE, ATF arrest police chief, mayor and trustee of New Mexico town.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 11 March, 2011.

Miroff, Nick. “U.S. mayor, police chief charged with smuggling guns to Mexico.” The Washington Post. 11 March, 2011.

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