SAN ANTONIO (AP) — U.S. authorities have traced an assault rifle recovered in the arrest of the leader of a Mexican drug cartel to an unlicensed Texas gun dealer, a federal agent testified Wednesday.
The San Antonio Express-News reports (http://bit.ly/1atroLm ) that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent Christopher Benavides testified that a gun recovered in Mexico in July at the arrest of Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales appeared to have been sold at a gun show by Manuel Rodriguez, 65, of Big Spring, in West Texas.
Rodriguez has been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Authorities searched Rodriguez's home last week and found 76 guns, more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition and $15,000 cash.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Primomo denied bond to Rodriguez after hearing of his criminal history and gun deals. Rodriguez had been sentenced in 2002 to nearly four years in prison after being caught selling machine guns and other weapons in California without a license.
Rodriguez allegedly sold guns at shows posing as a private seller of his personal collection, using the loophole and not conducting background checks on buyers. While many vendors at gun shows are licensed dealers who conduct background checks on buyers, some sell guns that are ostensibly their own without a license or running a check. Texas is among the states that do not require a background check for such private transactions.
"A cooperating witness indicated he and others would go to Manuel Rodriguez and his son to buy AK-47s from them," Benavides testified. "They would then give (the weapons) to others who would smuggle them to the Zetas." Benavides conceded that he had no evidence that Rodriguez knew any of his guns were going to the Zetas.
ATF spent several months watching Rodriguez at gun shows in San Antonio and Austin. An undercover agent at one point bought a gun from Rodriguez in Austin.
Mexican marines captured Trevino Morales, long considered one of Mexico's most violent drug lords, and two others near Nuevo Laredo. Mexican authorities reported seizing eight rifles in Trevino Morales' truck.
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com