Mexican nationals accused of smuggling ammo set for detention hearing

Men had more than 1,500 rounds of ammo hidden in pickup truck

McALLEN — Three Mexican nationals accused of attempting to smuggle more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition are each set for a detention hearing Thursday, court records show.

Sergio Eduardo Perez-Barragan, Carlos Casanova-Ledezma, and Faustino Velazquez-Crisostomo each stood before U.S. Magistrate Juan F. Alanis on Monday for their initial appearance in federal court in connection with a case involving ammunition headed into Mexico, documents show.

Perez-Barragan, 56, Casanova-Ledezma, 53, and Velazquez-Crisostomo, 46, appeared before the judge days after they were arrested attempting to enter Mexico through the outbound lane at the Hidalgo International Bridge, according to a complaint filed by government prosecutors.

On Dec. 14, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers noticed two vehicles — a silver Honda Ridgeline driven by Perez-Barragan and one passenger, later identified as Casanova-Ledezma, and a blue Ford F-250 pickup truck driven by Velazquez-Crisostomo — enter the outbound lane at the bridge.

After all three gave CBP officers a negative declaration for contraband, they were referred for secondary inspection, the document stated.

But during the inspection of the vehicles, CBP officers discovered packages within the pickup truck, specifically they found 1,000 rounds of “UMC 9mm ammunition,” 350 rounds of “Blazer Brass .380 caliber ammunition, 200 rounds of “Federal .243 caliber ammunition,” and 20 rounds of “Winchester .270 caliber ammunition,” the complaint stated.

After the discovery of the ammunition, all three men were detained and held for questioning regarding the seizure.

Casanova-Ledezma told U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents that the ammo found within the pickup truck was purchased by Perez-Barragan in Cameron and Hidalgo counties earlier that day, but denied that they wanted to export it to Mexico because they did not have a “license to export ammunition and both knew it was a violation of United States law to do so without a license,” the record shows.

Casanova-Ledezma said that he and Perez-Barragan traveled to a Walmart within Hidalgo County and transferred all of the ammo, 1,570 rounds, over to Velazquez-Crisostomo, who was to smuggle the ammunition via the Hidalgo International Bridge.

“(Casanova-Ledezma) stated once in Mexico, (he), and (Perez-Barragan), were to meet with (Velazquez-Crisostomo) to retrieve the ammunition from (Velazquez-Crisostomo’s) Ford F-250,” the complaint stated.

Casanova-Ledezma and Velazquez-Crisostomo admitted to knowing that smuggling ammunition from the U.S. to Mexico was against the law.

All three men, who are currently in federal custody, are each set for a detention hearing Thursday, where a magistrate will decide whether or not to grant a bond or hold them pending further court proceedings, court notes show.