A former Rio Hondo police officer has pleaded guilty to exporting assault rifles to Mexico, U.S. Justice Department officials said.
Armando Duenez pleaded guilty to exporting firearms to Mexico in cooperation with a former Palm Valley police officer and others, federal officials said.
Duenez, 31, also pleaded guilty to failing to appear in court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said in a Thursday statement.
Duenez, who entered the plea late Wednesday, was employed as a police officer with the Rio Hondo Police Department at the time of the offense, Magidson said.
Duenez was arrested on the firearms charge in July 2008, federal officials said. After being released on bond, Duenez failed to appear for his arraignment having fled to Mexico, Magidson said.
Duenez remained in Mexico until he surrendered to United States Marshals Service in December, federal officials said.
U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle, who accepted the guilty plea Thursday, has set sentencing for May 1.
At that time Duenez faces up to five years in federal prison on each of the charges as well as a possible $250,000 fine, Justice Department officials said.
Duenez admitted to working with Raymond Martinez, formerly a member of the Palm Valley Police Department, to buy firearms and sell them for a profit to people who intended to smuggle them to Mexico, Magidson said.
Duenez admitted to purchasing more than 15 semi-automatic rifles that were later sold in Mexico, federal officials said. The rifles were all capable of accepting high capacity magazines.
The investigation began when weapons recovered in Mexico were traced back to Duenez, federal officials said.
Martinez was also convicted of dealing in firearms without a license and later sentenced to federal prison, the Justice Department said in the statement.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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