A man convicted of buying high-powered assault rifles in Las Vegas just weeks before the weapons were found at a drug cartel training camp in Mexico was sentenced Friday to three years in U.S. federal prison and will face deportation, federal officials said.
Christian Romero, a 20-year-old Mexico national, was the third member of his family and the last of four co-defendants sentenced in U.S. District Court in Nevada in a trafficking scheme that U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said involved the purchase of 37 rifles in Las Vegas.
Romero's brother, Marcos Romero, 22, was sentenced in July to 40 months in prison, court records show. Their father, Abel Romero, 38, was sentenced to 46 months. Each of the three men pleaded guilty to two charges of illegal acquisition of a firearm.
Arnold Gutierrez, 24, of Las Vegas, is serving 15 months after pleading guilty to illegal acquisition of a firearm and making a false statement to a federal officer.
Bogden and Thomas Chittum III, the chief federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives agent in Las Vegas, said Gutierrez was paid as a "straw purchaser" because the Romeros were illegal immigrants and could not buy guns.
"He allowed himself to be recruited into a scheme to buy guns for other people, and for that he's going to prison," Chittum said.
The four men were arrested and charged in August 2010 with illegally obtaining assault rifles from dealers in the Las Vegas area.
The trafficking operation unraveled after the Mexican military raided the Zetas training camp in May 2010 in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, near Monterrey. Chittum said Mexican authorities seized guns, body armor and munitions including grenades.
"The weapons were recovered at a cartel training camp barely more than a month after their purchase in Las Vegas," Chittum said. "As soon as it came to light, we devoted significant resources to cracking this scheme."