In the latest crackdown on gun smuggling from North Texas to Mexico, three illegal immigrants face charges they fraudulently bought four semi-automatic rifles from a Fort Worth gun shop for a violent drug cartel.
Managers of the gun store notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about a suspicious purchase last week. Agents set up surveillance and followed the men when they left, according to the criminal complaint.
The men, Ruben Ramirez, Romeo Ramirez and Ernesto Manzanarez were arrested and charged with being aliens unlawfully in possession of firearms. The guns, valued at more than $3,000, were recovered.
Agents also reported finding $4,880 in the suspects’ car and $1,857 in Manzanarez’s pocket.
Manzanarez told agents he was given $10,000 in Sonora in South Texas to drive to another suspect’s house in Comanche “to buy guns to send to Mexico for the Zetas to fight the war,” the complaint said.
Founded by former special forces soldiers in the Mexican Army, the Zetas are one of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels. Once the enforcers for the notorious Gulf Cartel, the Zetas branched out last year and formed their own drug-trafficking organization, according to American drug agents.
Six members of the group were arrested in the shootings of two U.S. agents in Mexico last month. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata died in the attack.
The murder weapon was traced to North Texas and ATF agents later arrested three men in Lancaster who allegedly bought the gun and smuggled it to Mexico.
Dallas is believed to be a “command and control” center, a hub where the Zetas and another cartel known as “La Familia” coordinate drug shipments throughout the United States, according to drug agents.