San Juan woman sentenced for trying to smuggle 39 guns into Mexico

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A 33-year-old San Juan woman has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for trying to smuggle 39 guns and 38 ammunition magazines into Mexico.

Jessica Alvarado, who had pleaded guilty on Jan. 25 to smuggling goods from the United States, had reached a plea deal with prosecutors, court records show.

In exchange for her plea, prosecutors moved to dismiss a charge of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, which U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez granted.

She was arrested on Jan. 31, 2023, when U.S. Customs and Border Protections assigned to the Hidalgo Port of Entry found 33 AK-47s, three AR-15s, one .22 long rifle, two .45 caliber handguns and 38 ammunition magazines hidden in the bed of the Ford F-150 she was driving, according to a criminal complaint.

A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said the ensuing investigation led Homeland Security Investigations special agents and San Juan police to her home where authorities found $13,000 in bulk currency and a little more than a pound of cocaine.

During her sentencing, Alvarez, the judge, heard how these types of weapons end up in the hands of cartel members.

“In handing down the sentence, the court noted the dangers associated with these firearms and the individuals they endanger,” the release stated. “The court also heard that at the time of the offense, Alvarado admitted to dealing cocaine on several occasions.”

Alamdar S. Hamdani, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, said Alvarado’s attempt to sneak dangerous weapons into Mexico could have had devastating effects.

“This sentence should serve as a warning — put guns in the hands of others illegally and pay a hefty price with your freedom. An AK-47 or AR-15 doesn’t belong in the hands of a criminal,” Hamdani said in the release.

Craig Larrabee, HSI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge, said drugs and guns make for a deadly combination.

“This sentencing serves as a warning to those who attempt to export weapons into Mexico and distribute highly addictive narcotics like cocaine. HSI will aggressively pursue violators and hold them accountable,” Larrabee said in the release. “This investigation demonstrates the strength of collaborative law enforcement efforts in the Rio Grande Valley and our strong partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Alvarez was allowed to remain on bond and will surrender at a later date to serve her sentence, the release said.

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