Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Convicted Houston gun trafficker for Zeta cartel sentenced to 3 years.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 |



U.S. agents are armed with the secrets of a convicted Houston gunrunner, information that could lead them to top Mexican drug-cartel bosses and the Texas firearms dealers supplying high-powered weapons.

Christian Garza was sentenced to three years in federal prison as a result of a plea agreement that offered leniency in exchange for telling U.S. officials about his criminal contacts, according to court papers.

"Mr. Garza has also provided assistance and information related to the sale of the firearms in question to highly sought fugitives who are believed to lead one of the most violent Mexican drug cartels, the Zetas," states a paper submitted to a federal judge by his lawyer, Connie Williams.

The Zetas cartel, a crime syndicate launched by former members of the Mexican military, thrives across the border from Texas and is battling rival traffickers as well as the Mexican government.

They are known for being gruesome, aggressive and efficient. Top leaders are dodging capture, despite multimillion-dollar rewards for their arrests by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

Garza was a member of an arms-trafficking group that sent more than 300 military-style weapons to Mexico.

As part of his agreement with the government, he described the inner-workings of his cell and provided grand-jury testimony that "may prove to be critical" in seeking criminal charges against firearms retailers where weapons were purchased, according to the paper filed by Williams.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives contends Houston is the No. 1 spot of origin for weapons that have been traced from Mexican organized crime scenes back to the United States.

The case began in January, 2007 during a routine inspection of files at Carter's County, a firearms dealer in Houston, according to court papers. ATF agents noticed numerous large cash purchases for what the agency considers cartel weapons of choice.

Numerous individuals had purchased large quantities of military-style firearms in a relatively short period of time. ATF later determined that 23 buyers had purchased 339 firearms – mostly AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, FN Herstal 5.7mm rifles and pistols, and Beretta pistols – worth $366,450 in a 15-month period at Carter’s County gun store.

Mexican authorities also had recovered 88 of these firearms in Mexico; four of the firearms were found in Guatemala. One or more of these firearms had been found at various crime scenes in Mexico where police had been murdered, judicial personnel had been executed, the military had received gun fire, or a businessman had been kidnapped and murdered. Many, if not all, of the assailants were members of Los Zetas.

Mexican authorities also found several more of these U.S.-origin firearms during narcotics related searches and at various vehicle inspection points. In total, 18 Mexican law enforcement officers and civilians died using firearms purchased from this U.S. gun store.

 

Recruited by cousins

Williams stressed that his client was not a member of the Zetas and did not personally meet with any Zetas, nor take guns across the border.

"They (federal agents) were more interested in the higher-ups, the people who could connect them to what was going on down in Mexico," Williams said. "He put his two cents in. There was another layer between him and the Zetas."

Garza became a supervisor after being recruited by two cousins, including one who is a fugitive and believed to be in Mexico.

He is the latest of a dozen Americans, including three brothers, who pleaded guilty in an ATF investigation that has intensified since 2006. It has included multiple indictments. It is unclear to what extent others in the case have cooperated.

The ATF and federal prosecutors declined comment.

The Houston men were convicted for their roles in deceiving firearms dealers in order to buy weapons, many of which were civilian variants of the M16 rifle favored by Mexico's drug cartels.

Garza's background and day job repairing windshields underscored part of the cartel's apparent strategy.

It enlists U.S. citizens who are both facing tougher economic times, so they may be tempted by quick cash, and have no felony convictions so they'll pass gun-buying background checks.

According to officials from ICE and ATF, individuals and groups seeking to traffic U.S. firearms to Mexico use several different schemes to purchase and transport U.S. firearms to Mexico. In a large majority of cases, several straw purchasers and one or more intermediaries or brokers are used to traffic the firearms to Mexico.

The straw purchasers are eligible to purchase firearms in the United States while the brokers are usually legally prohibited from purchasing firearms because they are convicted felons, not U.S. citizens or residents, or for other reasons.

Sometimes taking orders from a person in Mexico, the U.S.-based broker may hire three or more straw purchasers, often young women, to buy a few firearms each at various locations. In a more complex scheme intended to better hide the arms trafficker’s identity and avoid prosecution, a managing broker hires additional brokers, and these brokers then hire the straw purchasers.


'What did he know?'


A former U.S. intelligence agent said a key factor is the validity of Garza's information. If he only dealt with the cartel on the U.S. side of the border, he would have limited information about what is going on in Mexico.

Still, each little piece could prove important in connecting the dots, he said.

Cartel members pay attention to how criminal prosecutions play out in the U.S., including who is talking. "They will do like everybody does," the ex-agent said, "assess the situation — what did he know?"

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35 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

the u.s. can kiss my ass!!!

ajulio said...

watch spike tv's gangland episode on los zetas. it shows how nasty this cartel really is.

Anonymous said...

SNITCH

Anonymous said...

the whole game has become about snitching.....I dont condone this type of crime as it affects me to visit my relatives in Mexico, but damn every single person that is caught rats out quick for a plea. What happened to those old times, tortured or not they wouldnt give up info. Seems to me that today's mafia criminals are not loyal to their cartel compared from the begining to late 90s.

Vicko

''lito'brito said...

of course he snitched ...he is a punk ass from the start or he wouldn't be working for the pinches Z


some of you are real idiots...what do you think?... there is honor among thieves ..you have sympathy for this fuckwad?...you stupid shitheads think it is a game...you have watched too much tv...there were no "old times"...it was a lie from the start...

and three years is not enough....ten would be a good start

and as for you asshole .." the usa can kiss my ass"...you can beso mi culo americano you shit eater


you need to get in the real world

Anonymous said...

this guy will probably be killed when released. I don't understand why his name is published here. It's like a death sentence.

Anonymous said...

It's actually being called SMART. He gets a reduced sentence in a prison the Zeta's can't get him, and he gets witness protection for himself and his family.

Also by bringing public attention to himself, the zetas are unlikely to kill his family in reprisal.

If this happened to someone in mexico they'd be dead and so would their family, if they ratted out on that cartel.

Anonymous said...

Why would you hold information for your cartel? cartel treats you as disposable anyways and its not like you know exactly how there entire organization works

Anonymous said...

What do you mean the Cartels cant touch him in Prison?
Everyone is actively recruiting in U.S. Prisons

Anonymous said...

The Z's aren't la mafia de Italia. Otherwise even they had rats and continue to in that aspect. These guys aren't mafiosos they are terroristas. But feeling sorry for these dudes is pathetic. The guy may have been only dealing guns and ammo but he was in way involved in supplying terrorists ammo for their horror. Los Zetas are no better than any other terrorists in the world. And I agree 3 years was maybe not enough. 7-10 would have set the example for anyone funding or supplying the war in Mexico. Don't do it because you will be hit hard. Although I feel it's a start and don't see it slowing them down much as the Z's and other cartels are importing weapons from other countries as well who would happily sell them arms with a smile and coke to seal the deal.

Anonymous said...

I agree as he is in danger, but unless he gets wacked in prison I see him getting witness protection somehow. But true, in Mexico sadly he would have been wacked and his family probably as well. Right now there is no respect for family in Mexico amongst gangsters and drug cartels. Anyone is fair game.

''lito'brito said...

the whole thing is not about honor..or social revolution ...or anything else ..it is all about money, and greed ..and any asshole who goes for it deserves what they get ...this culero is doomed ...and so what ...


do some of you think he is a hero or something...or feel sorry for him...


why...because you have some misguided ideas that you got from the 10 5 23 controlled media, designed to promote false identitys

the sopranos are not real...neither was the godfather...goodfellas was closer to real...

but what is the real truth is that all these people are trying to get as much as they can and to hell with everybody else

get your head out of your ass and wake the fuck up

Anonymous said...

Did that guy " say "U.S. kiss my ass or he meant to say the U.S. will "Kick" your ass. Wow you are a real asset to society, with comments like that, that's the reason why Mexico is in such conflict, because of idiots like you.

Anonymous said...

"the u.s. can kiss my ass!!!"
Guns, Lawyers, Congressman... businessmen always have their weapons of financial war and they will use them. It's not our fault that your country is weak enough to still let the physical warfare go unchecked.

The game will always be played; civilization is when the damage to civilians is kept to a minimum.

Anonymous said...

Good. I bet he was getting at least 10 years if he didn't cooperate. Fuck him for arming a bunch of pschopaths killing innocents. I love guns but hate straw buyers who ruin our great sport.

Anonymous said...

Fuck the zetas, burn in hell.

Layla2 said...

TO: "it's not our fault that your country is weak enough to still let the warefare go on..."

Who are you kidding, blaming social ills in Mexico on the US. You've had a drug cartel problem and a corrupt government who turned the other cheek for a long time now. Then you elect a progressive, democratic President and he joins the US in an overt battle against drug traffiking between the countries.

Your President, and I suppose most of the Mexican people, said hands off military incursions into Mexico. We've complied. AND we've given you billions of dollars, training, equipment, etc. for you to do it yourself, in your own country.

We've taken responsibility to investigate gun traffiking and cartel influence on our side of the border and prosecuted criminals. We've shown you how to do the same. We've given you the tools and the power, but we cannot do it for you.

You have to clean up your military and judicial systems. You have to oust those corrupt officials from office and prosecute them. You have to protect those honest officials who try to help Mexico and prevent them from being kidnapped and executed.

In short--the blame game is over--the buck stops here, so to speak. It's your turn.

Anonymous said...

snitches end up in ditches

Anonymous said...

All yes I say all the guns used for violence came from the US. OK?

So how come everybody's just, u know, like la de da walking around in the US and not just, you know, like getting gunned down dead every minute? Some kind of a societal thing?

Anonymous said...

"In total, 18 Mexican law enforcement officers and civilians died using firearms purchased from this U.S. gun store."

Supposition, and hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

Reporting from Mexico City —
Four years and 50,000 troops into President Felipe Calderon's drug war, the fighting has exposed severe limitations in the Mexican army's ability to wage unconventional warfare, tarnished its proud reputation and left the U.S. pointedly criticizing the force as "virtually blind" on the ground.

The army's shortcomings have complicated the government's struggle against the narcotics cartels, as the deadliest year of the war by far comes to a close.

http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fg-mexico-army-20101230,0,3713450.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fsports%2Fbasketball%2Fwnba%2Fsparks+%28L.A.+Times+-+Sparks%29


Some of the weapons linked to the trafficking cell were traced from Mexico crime scenes back to Houston stores; they were discovered by scouring records that firearms dealers are required to keep, but their whereabouts remain unknown.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Arms-trafficker-helping-U-S-find-Mexican-cartel-935012.php

Anonymous said...

Just FYI, the FN Herstal 5.7x28mm is NOT a rifle but a pistol.

Anonymous said...

BDN is saying there hearing rumors that El Lazca mightve been killed in the Nuevo Leon shootout today. Hopefully if this true it will bring down the Zetas drastically.

Anonymous said...

This guy won't survive prison, even in the US, which is fine by me. Hopefully, they will put him in general population with the rest of the gang banger trash.

Anonymous said...

@8:32pm
FN does indeed make a rifle called the ps-90 in 5.7x28.

Anonymous said...

Sub-human animals. Trash

TORRES7 said...

Prosecution against the Guns dealers that are caught volintarily or involuntarily contributing to the drug war in form from supplying weapons.

Involuntary manslaughter would do just fine. I would like to know what would happen to those greedy gun dealers if the over 500 killed cops would be US cops.

But since they are only mexican cops, federal agents, soldiers, mayors and governours, WHO CARES!!!!ooops

Please pardon my sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

@TORRRES7-What, you think those Mexican cops, agents, soldiers, mayors and "governours" were all innocent "palomitas blancas'? They were corrupt and/or involved in criminal activities so hell yes, WHO CARES!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Someone here mentioned that this guy will be killed when released. I don't think so. He'll be killed the minuted he goes into prison.

Anonymous said...

"In total, 18 Mexican law enforcement officers and civilians died using firearms purchased from this U.S. gun store.

Supposition, and hyperbole."

Really? Last that I checked, ballistic evidence is pretty accurate and these are guns that were directly traced back to Carter's.

Facts are facts. Just because you don't like them doesn't mean they are "supposition and hyperbole"

....and Layla, you have the best, most intelligent comment of the day....

TORRES7 said...

Palomitas blancas o negras, it doesn't matter. It remains a c o n t r i b u t i o n to the ongoing NARCO war.

And oh. there are no bad cops in the US I forgot, the US has only good cops and no one there is corrupt. There isn't any corruption there. All evil comes from across the border of course how could I forget.

Layla2 said...

@ Torres7

Those of us in America should care...and I hope do care..about the killing of honest law enforcement, mayors, and other officials in Mexico. It doesn't matter what gun was used, in the end, the person is still dead.

And what is the goal? To kill as many officials as possible who cannot be bought?

As for guns coming from the US, we need to check and recheck these gunshops records--like the FDA stops in and checks restaurants--to catch as many stwaw purchases as possible. That is our governments responsibility. Time to own up to it and prosecute individuals and businesses who participate. Hiding behind the NRA on this point would be misleading at best...

Anonymous said...

fuck . if the cartels don't bring the drugs in the u.s. the mexican government will. so its a lose lose situation. everyone has got to make their money somehow! even the u.s government

Anonymous said...

WHY THE FUCK YOU GUYS PUBLISH THIS WHY THE FUCK YOU GUYS EVEN TELL HIS NAME ? if this is true it would be stupid to let this be known.

Anonymous said...

It was better before the US got there and before Felipe Calderon got there everything was calm. But then they want to fight it they should just its business! !

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