National Guardsmen accused in arms trafficking conspiracy
In the latest in a series cases involving members, or former members of the US military allegedly involved in arming, or working at the best of drug trafficking organizations, two San Diego men have been indicted. The DEA and ATF worked together on the sting.
The men were arrested last Wednesday in San Diego, and appeared in U.S District Court the following day. Jamie Casillas, 22, and Jose Reyes 34, were denied bail, at their initial hearing, in which they pled not guilty. Reyes is a staff sergeant, and Casillas a specialist, both were assigned to an El Cajon Armory. The two were taken into custody following an 8 month investigation, in which the two are accused of numerous weapons transactions, including automatic weapons.
In August of 2014, an undercover DEA agent, working on a related case, had a meeting with Jamie Casillas. During the meeting Casillas told the agent he had access to firearms and ammunition, and that he was wiling and able to acquire them for sales to the agent. Casillas "was told and appeared to believe" that the agent was a member of an unnamed Mexican drug trafficking organization, who was looking to purchase weapons, body armor and ammunition. The agent informed Casillas that he was ordered to purchase these items at the direction of the cartel.
Casillas told then agent that he, and another guardsmen were willingly to work with the undercover agent. The complaint details that Casillas, in the initial meeting offered to sell an Ak-47 assault rifle, a .40 caliber pistol, and 1600 rounds of .223 ammunition. In a following meeting Casillas sold the ammunition for $700.
On August 14th, the agent traveled to a mobile home park in El Cajon, were Casillas and his girlfriend resided, and purchased the .40 caliber pistol for $800. The complaint alleges that Casillas told the agent the pistol had been used 'to do a job in Tijuana', meaning commit a murder or assault. On September 3rd the men met at Reyes La Mesa home, and purchased the assault rifle for 1,700.
In the following months Reyes and Casillas would contact the agent, via text message and phone calls, to offer weapons, armor, and ammunition for sale, including two AR-15 assault rifles, purchased in Texas, and driven by Reyes to San Diego. The men were advised repeatedly that the rifles were being brought to Mexico. Some of the items included ammunition and trauma plates (body armor) were taken from the Armory in El Cajon, were the men worked.
Reyes traveled again to Texas to purchase weapons, his movements each time monitored by a attacking device authorized during the investigation by a Magistrate Judge. In January 2015 he provided the undercover agent with an SKS assault rifle and another AR-15 assault rifle. In March 2015, two ballistic vests, an AR-15 with a mounted scope and more ammunition. The two men exchanged numerous texts and calls, including video of weapons, they sold to the undercover agent. During the March 2015 meet, Casillas claimed he had a 'hot' .45 caliber pistol for sale.
The men offered to sell a .50 Caliber rifle, this purchase was never conducted, the defendants homes were raided on April 15th 2015, and the rifle wasn't found at either location. Casillas, after being arrested, agreed to a post miranda interview, where he claimed he was merely a broker for Reyes, and didn't profit from any of the sales. He also admitted furnishing weapons and ammunition to the man he knew as an arms provider for a Mexican cartel.
Reyes and Casillas allegedly profited a total of 13,000 from the sales. It all seems a bit much to ensnare some low level players, after the cost of the legal proceedings, and investigation, but this has become a standard type of arrest. It begins the discussion of how much of a threat were these men? If they had met a legitimate Mexican cartel representative, they would have surely committed the same acts. But, the didn't. The guns they sold never reached Mexico. Now, they were in close enough proximity to an undercover DEA agent that they become a target in an investigation, which indicates they may have found a legit outlet for their guns and munitions, eventually.
Doubtless, members of the US Military knowingly contributing to the violence and carnage in Mexico cannot be ignored, but, are these type of operations, in which criminal acts are in a sense created, really protect or serve anyone?
Sources: Los Angeles Times, NBC San Diego, 10news San Diego