Friday, June 15, 2012

Alleged Firearms Trafficker Extradited to Mexico

FRESNO, Calif. — U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that Gregorio Salgado Lopez, 34, of Madera, was extradited to Mexico on June 12, 2012, where he is wanted to stand trial for the alleged illegal possession of firearms without a license while in Mexico and the clandestine introduction of firearms into Mexico.

According to the extradition request submitted by Mexico and court documents, on March 22, 2009, shortly before 6:00 p.m., a bus traveling from Tijuana, Baja California, to Santiago Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca, arrived at the inspection station in the town of Sonoyta, Sonora, Mexico. The passengers were required to get off the bus with their luggage and present themselves for random inspection in the inspection station. The inspectors reported that one of the passengers whose luggage was randomly chosen for inspection presented documents identifying himself as Gregorio Salgado Lopez. He also presented five luggage claim tickets that matched the claim tags on four cardboard boxes and a suitcase. Inside the boxes, the inspectors discovered disassembled pieces of rifles, some wrapped in aluminum foil and hidden under clothes. Re-assembled later in the Office of the Federal Public Prosecutor, the pieces equaled 55 Ruger brand .22–caliber rifles. The Federal Public Prosecutor also made a record of the unique serial number on each of the rifles.

According to documents filed with the court, on March 24, 2009, Salgado Lopez gave a deposition to the Federal Public Prosecutor of the State of Sonora, in which he claimed that strangers gave him the boxes in Tijuana, said that the boxes contained tools, and asked him if he would take the “tools” with him. They offered to pay him 30,000 Mexican pesos, so he agreed. Salgado Lopez also admitted that he did not have the necessary license to possess firearms in Mexico. He could not remember the people who purportedly offered him money to carry the boxes to Oaxaca. However, according to records maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Salgado Lopez illegally purchased some of the firearms in Madera County, California.

The United States Marshals Service arrested Salgado Lopez in Madera County in November 2011. On June 1, 2012, following court proceedings in U.S. District Court in Fresno, the court ordered his extradition to Mexico. Salgado Lopez was extradited to Mexico on June 12, 2012.

Salgado Lopez is an unindicted co–conspirator in a firearms trafficking case pending in U.S. District Court: United States v. Ernesto Salgado–Guzman, et al., 1:11–CR–00376 AWI, which is scheduled for a status conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Beck on July 23, 2012. According to court documents, the defendants in that case allegedly purchased firearms in Madera that were then sold in Oaxaca, Mexico. Firearms in Gregorio Salgado Lopez’s possession were traced to the defendants in the case.

“Continued cooperation with Mexican law enforcement agencies to improve public safety in both countries has been a priority for the U.S. Department of Justice,” said United States Attorney Wagner. “This case exemplifies that kind of cooperation.”

Salgado Lopez is the third defendant extradited to Mexico from the Eastern District of California in the last six weeks. On April 27, 2012, U.S. Attorney Wagner announced the extradition of Emilio Osornio Valdovinos, 55, of Michoacán, who was wanted to stand trial for an alleged killing in Michoacán in 2005. On May 10, 2012, the U.S. Attorney announced the extradition of Raul Mejia Vazquez, 73, of Morelia, who was wanted to stand trial for the alleged killing of his brother in 2009, also in Michoacán.

The Salgado Lopez extradition is the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ian Garriques and Kimberly Sanchez prosecuted the case. The Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division provided invaluable assistance.

No comments: