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TUCSON, Ariz. — A Mexican national was recently sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for illegally possessing a semiautomatic firearm as a result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) after the United States Border Patrol requested assistance for a traffic stop involving a Mexican national illegally in possession of several firearms.

“Stopping the flow of weapons into Mexico continues to be a key priority for HSI and our partners,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge of HSI Arizona. “Undoubtedly, this man was seeking to add to the bloodshed in Mexico by unlawfully smuggling weapons. We must put a stop to this kind of criminal activity – let this sentence serve as an example for those thinking of participating in smuggling activity – you will be caught.”

Esteban Gonzalez-Melendez, 26, of Mexico, also was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment. Gonzalez-Melendez pleaded guilty to Possession of Firearms and Ammunition knowing that he was an undocumented non-citizen illegally and unlawfully in the United States.

On Sept. 9, 2022, Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle in which Gonzalez-Melendez was a passenger. One of the officers observed the muzzle of a rifle on the passenger floorboard protruding from under a blanket covering Gonzalez-Melendez. A search of the vehicle revealed a semiautomatic AR-15 pistol with large capacity magazine capabilities, along with a 9mm pistol and .380 pistol where Gonzalez-Melendez was seated. The search further revealed a two-way radio, a 30-round AR-15 magazine, a 100-round AR-15 drum magazine, two .380 magazines, a 9mm magazine, 12 rounds of 9mm ammunition, 14 rounds of .380 ammunition, 92 rounds of 5.56×45 NATO ammunition, and a pair of handcuffs.

United States Border Patrol agents, who were called by DPS, determined that Gonzalez-Melendez was illegally present in the United States. Gonzalez-Melendez stated he knew it was illegal for him to possess a firearm and indicated he had purchased two of the weapons in Phoenix, and a friend gave him the third gun “to hold.”

Assistant United States Attorney Brandon Bolling, United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecution.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Photos credited to CBP.

ICE breaking news HSI Tucson case results in man sentenced for unlawfully possessing a semiautomatic firearm Government Agency News