TUCSON, Ariz. – Today, Ariana Alexa Ramirez, 26, of Phoenix, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson to 30 months in prison. Her co-defendant, Andrian Alvarez-Valdez, 23, of Mexico, was previously sentenced to 46 months in prison. Both defendants had pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle firearms and ammunition into Mexico from the United States.
“The lengthy sentences in this case should serve as a warning to those who would consider smuggling firearms into Mexico,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange. “I would like to thank ATF and HSI for their strong investigative work in this case, along with the diligent CBP agents at the Port of Entry who were able to locate the hidden contraband in the defendants’ car before it left the country.”
“This case is a prime example of the cooperative efforts among law enforcement to stem the illegal trafficking of guns and ammunition into Mexico,” stated ATF Special Agent in Charge Thomas G. Atteberry. “I wish to commend the leadership of the U.S Attorney’s Office in their prosecution of these criminals.”
“HSI and our valued law enforcement partners will continue to identify and investigate individuals tied to transnational criminal organizations who attempt to disregard the rule of law,” said HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Francisco Burrola. “The amount of work invested culminated in extremely dangerous weapons to include thousands of rounds of assorted ammunition being seized and prevented their possible use in violent crimes.”
On March 26, 2016, the defendants purchased bulk ammunition at a store in Phoenix. The next day, they were stopped by agents at the Nogales Port of Entry while attempting to drive into Mexico. Hidden inside their vehicle were two AK-47 style assault rifles, six 30-round 7.62x39 magazines, one 10-round 7.62x39 magazine, nearly 3,000 rounds of ammunition, and a disassembled tripod mount for a .50 caliber machine gun. Ramirez’s two young children were also in the vehicle. Additional investigation showed the defendants had smuggled weapons and ammunition into Mexico on multiple prior occasions.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The prosecution was handled by Angela W. Woolridge, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Tucson.