A former gun store manager has been ordered to prison for her role in straw purchasing operation, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Crystal Espinoza, 31, of San Juan, was found guilty of making false statements or representations with regards to firearms records by a federal jury on May 15, 2015, following a three-day-trial and approximately six hours of deliberation.
U.S. District Court Judge Micaela Alvarez ordered Espinoza to serve a 60-month sentence to be followed by three years of supervised release.
Evidence at trial showed that in the summer of 2013, special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) initiated an investigation in regard to firearms that were being exported into Mexico. The jury heard that agents learned that semi-assault firearms had been recovered in Mexico which had been purchased at Brothers N Arms gun store in San Juan.
HSI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) initiated an undercover investigation in which they purchased approximately four semi-automatic rifles from Espinoza in October 2013. Evidence showed that Espinoza was aware the sale of those weapons was illegal because the intended purchaser did not have a proper identification documents to purchase the firearms. Espinoza agreed to sell the firearms to the second undercover agent, knowing he was not the actual buyer.
Additionally, a convicted co-conspirator testified that he purchased between 20-30 firearms from Espinoza during a five-month period that were later exported into Mexico. The co-conspirator testified that Espinoza knew that the firearms were destined to be exported into Mexico and that the true purchasers of the firearms were members of the Gulf Cartel.
Previously released on bond, Espinoza was taken into custody following the sentencing today where she will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
This prosecution was part of an investigation conducted by ATF and HSI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Wells Jr. prosecuted the case.