Arizona man charged with smuggling weapons, ammo & gun parts into Mexico

A 25-year-old man was arrested after Douglas-area U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped him as he drove into Mexico with nearly 26,000 rounds of ammunition and three rifles, as well as dozens of parts used to modify AR-15 rifles to fire automatically. 

Jose Raul Diaz Acedo, a U.S. citizen, was arrested by CBP officers on Tuesday after he attempted to drive a GMC Suburban with a Sonoran license plate into Mexico, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday. The case was first reported by Court Watch.

Acedo allegedly told officials he smuggled weapons and ammunition into Mexico at least three times before Tuesday, earning $500 each time, records said.

Acedo told officials he didn’t have any weapons in his vehicle as he attempted to drive into Mexico, according to Cameron Anders, a special agent with Homeland
Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement. However, CBP officers searched the vehicle and found a cache of weapons, ammunition and gun parts stashed in the SUV.

CBP officers found three AR-15-type rifles and one .380-caliber pistol still in its manufacturer’s box. They also found 10,000 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition used for the AR-15s, as well as nearly 15,000  rounds of 7.62x51mm ammunition used for AK-47-style rifles. Officials also found 1,600 rounds of .50-caliber rounds, regularly used by Mexican cartels for long-range sniper rifles.

The officers also found parts for AR-15 rifles, including nine lower receivers and nine upper receivers. The lower receiver houses internal components, including the firing mechanism, and is what federal officials classify as the “firearm” itself for semi-automatic rifles. Because this part is integral to making the weapon, it is controlled more strictly than other AR-15 parts, and unlike dozens of other components, buying one requires filing out a federal form.

Among the lower receivers were seven that lacked serial numbers, according to court records. While manufacturers can build “unfinished” receivers that are partially completed and lack serial numbers, completing these parts for sale or distribution can violate federal law, according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives.

CBP officers also found 50 auto sears, a small cluster of metal and springs that allow semi-automatic AR-15 to fire automatically. The ATF has said adding this part to some AR-15s can “convert such rifles into machine guns,” and unregistered auto sears are prohibited under federal law.

Acedo also had two rifle scopes, as well as several magazines in his SUV, according to court records.

In an interview after his arrest, Acedo admitted he knew it was illegal to smuggle the weapons into Mexico, according to Special Agent Anders.

A preliminary hearing is set for Monday before Magistrate Judge Maria S. Aguilera.

The Mexican government has become increasingly frustrated with the
United States’ inability to limit gun smuggling and has launched two separate
lawsuits against gun stores and gun manufacturers, including one filed
against gun dealers in Arizona in October 2022.

In
the suit, lawyers from the Tucson firm DeConcini McDonald Yetwin
& Lacy argued Diamondback Shooting Sports, SnG Tactical, Ammo AZ,
Sprague’s Sports, and The Hub all “systematically participate in
trafficking military-style weapons and ammunition to drug cartels in
Mexico by supplying gun traffickers.”

“Defendants know or should
know that their reckless and unlawful business practices – including
straw sales, and bulk and repeat sales of military-style weapons –
supply dangerous criminals in Mexico and the U.S.,” the law firm argued.

A hearing in that case is scheduled for late February.

During the first two months of fiscal 2024—which began on Oct. 1, 2023—CBP officers have intercepted 176 firearms, along with nearly 60,000 rounds, along with hundreds of gun magazine and parts. Along the U.S.-Canada border, CBP officials intercepted 38 weapons, while the lion’s share were attempts to smuggle weapons into Mexico.

In Arizona, CBP officials intercepted 26 handguns and 15 rifles and nearly 12,000 rounds in October and November, according to agency figures.