National Security

Six men charged in plot to smuggle weapons, ammunition to Mexican drug cartel

The United States charged six men on Monday in a plot on Monday to smuggle weapons and ammunition to a Mexican drug cartel during the pandemic. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said the group, led by Marco Antonio Santillan Valencia, began collecting weapons and ammunition to smuggle to the violent gang Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or New Generation, in March 2020.

Valencia, Anthony Marmolejo Aguilar, Marco Santillan Jr.,  Michael Diaz, Luis De Arcos and Rafael Magallon Castillo are facing charges of violating export regulations, with some of the men facing other charges such as money laundering.

The operation went on for a year as the group obtained thousands of rounds of .50-caliber ammunition from Arizona and stored them in Nevada before attempting to move them to Mexico. 

Weapons were also bought in Nevada and Oregon using drug money before they were smuggled to Mexico, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

“This case alleges a scheme to provide military-grade firepower to a major drug trafficking organization that commits unspeakable acts of violence in Mexico to further its goal of flooding the United States with dangerous and deadly narcotics,” U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison said.

“We will continue our efforts to dismantle drug cartels by targeting their leadership and well as their soldiers, intercepting their narcotics and ill-gotten financial gains, and prosecuting those who provide the resources that allow the cartels to engage in acts of violence,” she added.

Four of the men were arrested on Jan. 19, while Aguilar was already in custody in North Carolina, and Castillo is a fugitive in Mexico, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

During the investigation, six assault weapons were confiscated along with more than 250,000 rounds of ammunition and more than $300,000 worth of weapons parts and kits.

Tags Mexican drug cartels U.S. Attorney's Office U.S. attorney's office

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