Sgt. Julian Prezas pleaded guilty to funneling dozens of assault rifles to members of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel last year. The former Army recruiter pleaded guilty in two separate cases on Monday. He is being charged with five counts of lying on federal firearms forms and attempting to export defense articles to Mexico.
Prezas admitted to selling at least 42 guns to a co-conspirator who then turned them over to the cartel. Only 23 of these weapons have been recovered. The co-defendant-turned FBI informant told the Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives that Prezas also sold him 13 AR-15s, 50-60 AK-47s, and one shotgun last year.
The two men first met via a Facebook group where Prezas sold his partner turned-informant 1,000 magazines of ammunition. The relationship continued to grow from there. The unidentified informant began buying rifles, with their serial numbers removed, from Prezas.
A second informant admitted to buying $61,000 worth of firearms from Prezas. The informant told investigators that he made it clear to Prezas that the weapons would be turned over to a Mexican Cartel.
Several other service members were also involved in Prezas’ weapon ring. Thomas John Zamudio, Ricardo Esparza Salazar, and Christopher Brown — all men Prezas met through his military service— admitted to buying at least 42 firearms for Prezas to resell. The men were used by Prezas as straw buyers and are currently facing charges for making false statements on federal firearms forms. The men face up to 10 years in prison.
George Dombart, Prezas’ lawyer, claims Prezas simply misunderstood gun sale regulations. Dombart told reporters:
“Sometimes, the line gets blurred on public versus private sales, once he became aware that his conduct was illegal, he accepted responsibility.”
Prezas faces up to 10 years in prison for making false statements on Federal Firearms forms and up to 20 years in prison for the attempted exportation count. His sentencing is scheduled for March 23, 2017.