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Published on April 19, 2024
San Juan Woman Sentenced to 46 Months for Gun Smuggling to Mexican CartelsSource: Google Street View

A South Texas woman has been slammed with a near four-year prison term for a botched attempt to smuggle a stockpile of firearms across the border, a move that could've put deadly weapons in the hands of cartel members, federal prosecutors said. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas announced that 33-year-old Jessica Alvarado of San Juan is set to serve 46 months behind bars after pleading guilty to gun smuggling charges.

During her sentencing, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez highlighted the "dangers associated with these firearms and the individuals they endanger," according to a statement released by the Justice Department. Alvarado's guilty plea, came after her January 2023 attempt to leave the U.S. via the Hidalgo Port of Entry, where she was caught with a cargo that included 36 assault rifles and a cache of ammo.

"Alvarado tried to sneak dangerous weapons across our southern border which could have had devastating effects," said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. "This sentence should serve as a warning - put guns in the hands of others illegally, and pay a hefty price with your freedom. An AK-47 or AR-15 doesn’t belong in the hands of a criminal."

The feds nabbed Alvarado after her Ford F-150 truck's unusually raised bed aroused suspicion, and a thorough search uncovered the trove of weapons, which included 33 AK-47 variant rifles, three AR-15 rifles, a .22 caliber long rifle, two .45 caliber handguns and 39 ammunition magazines, prosecutors detailed. Additionally, lawmen discovered about 499 grams of what's believed to be cocaine and more than $13,000 in cash during a search of her home, adding a potential drug crime to her rap sheet.

Hamdani's office has been relentless in its charge, to intercept illegal arms trafficking as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program, which aims to reduce violent crime by focusing enforcement efforts and fostering community trust. "Drugs and guns are a deadly combination," said Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee, echoing the sentiment of a law enforcement community united against the flow of illegal weapons and substances.

Alvarado, who wasn't licensed to export firearms, will have a stint on supervised release following her prison time. Her sentence falls under the renewed efforts to tackle violent crime, particularly gun-related offenses, as per a comprehensive strategy outlined by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in 2021.