EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Six suspects are behind bars and one is on the lam for allegedly buying guns to be illegally exported to Mexico, federal authorities said.

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Northern District of Texas alleges Mario Lara, 28; Oralia Carrizales, 41; Geovanny Garcia, 31; Darryl Fox, 29; Gavino Trujillo, 28; and Guadalupe Corona, 29, made false statements to licensed firearms dealers while purchasing guns. The seventh defendant was not identified.

According to court documents, the defendants bought the firearms for Jose Carlos Rivas Chairez, who disassembled them, concealed them inside plastic bags and towels and smuggled them to Mexico inside car tires or through the U.S. mail.

The alleged conspiracy began to unravel last summer, when Rivas and his girlfriend, Ana Domingo Francisco, were charged and later pleaded guilty to making false statements during the purchase of a firearm, federal officials said in a statement. Court documents filed on July 29, 2022, describe both as ineligible non-citizens. Rivas is a Mexican who overstayed a visitor’s visa, and Domingo is a Guatemalan national who entered the U.S. without inspection through Arizona, court records show.

featured image
In this photo illustration, a semi-automatic AR-15 is displayed on a countertop at a gun store on August 25, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo Illustration by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Rivas also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, federal officials said.

According to court documents, a search of Rivas’ residence turned up more than 150 empty firearm boxes. Records show many of the missing firearms – including FN SCAR rifles, AR-15 style rifles, Glock pistols, and a stolen silencer – had been purchased by the defendants arrested in the past week. Prior to his arrest, Rivas accompanied one of the suspected “straw” gun purchasers to a firearms store, federal officials said.

“This case represents our district’s commitment to hold accountable anyone involved in smuggling guns into Mexico,” said U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton for the Northern District of Texas. “All too often, guns trafficked across our southern border fall into the hands of cartel bosses and other bad actors who threaten law enforcement and the people they serve.”

Rivas and Francisco were sentenced this year to a combined 32 years in prison. The latest defendants in the case face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if convicted.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations and the Arlington Police Department.