MCALLEN, Texas (AP) — One of two men arrested while allegedly trying to smuggle weapons for a Mexican cartel did not challenge his detention in federal court Friday.
Juan Ricardo Martinez Cardenas was arrested Monday in Roma during a police traffic stop. Inside the vehicle police found five assault rifles, a grenade launcher, four grenades, as well as ammunition.
Martinez, a Mexican citizen, told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents that he had been working for the Zetas for about six months, earning about $1,000 every other week. He was supposed to receive weapons at his home and smuggle them into Mexico.
Martinez waived probable cause and detention hearings in McAllen Friday.
Daniel Blanco Avila, who was also arrested, told investigators the seized weapons had been smuggled along with marijuana into South Texas from Mexico at Falcon Lake and were to then be smuggled back into Mexico for fighting down river near the Mexican town of Miguel Aleman, according to court records. The goal was to avoid the Zetas rivals in the Gulf cartel. Blanco's preliminary hearings were set for Monday.
Mexico's organized crime groups commonly obtain their weaponry from the providers in the U.S. Their networks recruit "straw buyers" to purchase guns at U.S. gun shops indicating they are for personal use, but instead turn them over to be smuggled into Mexico.
The Zetas, who had formerly been the Gulf cartel's muscle, split from that group in early 2010. The stretch of border along the Rio Grande between Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo has been a fluid boundary between the two groups since.
Attorneys for both men didn't return calls from The Associated Press.