Jury finds McAllen man not guilty in rifles case

Co-defendant awaits sentencing in straw purchase scheme

After a two-day trial earlier this month, jurors found a McAllen man not guilty of playing a role in a third-party straw deal to smuggle AR-15 rifles, records show. 

On March 3, jurors returned a unanimous not guilty verdict for Raul Ivan Santos, who was accused of playing a role in the exchange of rifles, along with Eliud Islas, that were sold to an undercover agent as part of an undercover investigation, court documents state. 

According to the criminal complaint filed against the 35-year-old McAllen resident, on May 13 Islas, who had been in communication with an undercover agent “regarding the sale of firearms,” offered to sell the agent “AR-15 style firearms.”

That day Islas met with two undercover agents in Mission and sold two of the rifles.

“Islas said he knew people in Mexico needed firearms,” the complaint stated. “…the UCAs stated they intended to smuggle into Mexico immediately after the meeting.”

According to the government’s allegations, during surveillance of this meeting, agents observed another vehicle, a white BMW, at the location that met with Islas shortly after the transaction. A law enforcement officer eventually pulled the vehicle over for a traffic violation and identified the driver as Santos. 

A week later, on May 20, 2020, Islas communicated with the undercover agent via text message in which he allegedly told the agents that three more rifles, supplied from the same person as before, were ready to be sold. 

The next day, Islas was surveilled traveling from his residence Santos’ residence. 

According to the records, agents observed the same white BMW at Santos’ residence from the May 13, 2020 meeting. 

Islas eventually left Santos’ residence and met with the undercover agents. Santos allegedly followed in a separate vehicle and followed Islas. 

“At the meeting location, SA’s observed Islas and Santos driving around the area in a manner SA’s know to be consistent with people conducting counter surveillance, before they departed the location in tandem,” the record shows. 

A short while later, agents recorded a call of Islas telling the undercover agent that he left the area after noticing a “large law enforcement presence,” at the meeting location and that he had gone to a new location a “short distance away.” 

Islas was subsequently arrested at the new location. Agents found three rifles inside Islas’ vehicle. Santos, who attempted to flee the area, was eventually arrested. 

“…Islas stated the firearms Islas sold the UCA on May 13, 2020 had been purchased from Santos, and Santos had traveled to the meeting location with Islas in order to conduct counter-surveillance and ensure they were not caught,” the document stated. 

But after the two-day trial, and testimony from eight of the government’s witnesses, and only  one witness for the defense, the jury came back unanimously that the government had not provided enough proof of Santos’ involvement in the third-party gun scheme. 

Islas, who pleaded guilty in October 2020 to the smuggling goods charge, is scheduled for sentencing at the end of March, records show.

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