Thursday, March 10, 2011

The mayor, police chief and a village trustee of a border town have been charged along with eight other defendants with buying firearms for illegal export to Mexico

An 84-count indictment accuses the 11 of being what authorities describe as a gun-trafficking ring. The ring bought guns favored by the Mexican cartels, such as American tactical 9 mm pistols and the so-called "AK-47 pistols," which are weapons resembling AK-47 rifles but with shorter barrels and without rear stocks. Authorities seized 200 such firearms, purchased illegally using "straw" buyers and intended for sale in Mexico. In addition, 1,500 rounds of ammunition were also seized. The indictment says that 12 firearms previously purchased by the defendants were found in Mexico and were traced back to them. Arrested were Columbus Police Chief Angelo Vega, 40; Mayor Eddie Espinoza, 51; and village trustee Blas Gutierrez, 30. They and seven other defendants were arrested by federal and local authorities, and all but one of them were arrested in Columbus. The 11th defendant, Ignacio Vallalobos, 24, of Columbus, remained a fugitive and is facing two counts of firearms smuggling and a conspiracy charge. Authorities also conducted searches at eight residences, a business and even the Columbus Police Department.

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