Harlingen man pleads guilty to arming Gulf Cartel with firearm linked to American’s death

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A Harlingen man pleaded guilty to smuggling firearms linked to a murder and kidnapping incident involving an American citizen that occurred on March 3 in Matamoros, Mexico, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Roberto Lugardo Moreno Jr., 42, pleaded guilty Wednesday to aiding the smuggling of a firearm into Mexico knowing that it was intended for members of the Gulf Cartel.

“All too often, firearms are trafficked into Mexico where they end up in the hands of criminals who use them to murder, rob and extort innocent people,” U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani said in a news release. “Moreno helped smuggle a firearm for criminals he knew were in the Gulf Cartel who then allegedly used it to murder and kidnap American citizens.”

Following the March 3 incident involving the murders and kidnapping of U.S. citizens, Mexican authorities obtained a gun that had been purchased by Moreno on Oct. 17, 2019.

Homeland Security Investigations in Harlingen learned on March 14 that a DB-15 multi-caliber AR style pistol with the serial number DBIS94494 had been recovered by Mexican authorities, according to the criminal complaint.

On March 17, authorities conducted a post-Miranda interview with Moreno where he admitted to purchasing the pistol and other firearms at a pawn shop in Brownsville for people that he knew were going to provide them to the Gulf Cartel in Mexico.

“Moreno further admitted that he knew it was illegal to do so,” the complaint said.

He also stated that he didn’t apply for a license to export any firearms from the U.S. and knowingly purchased the pistol knowing it would be exported to Mexico without the proper license to export.

Moreno added that he received a payment of $100 during the time he purchased firearms for people he knew would provide them to the Gulf Cartel.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 9.

Moreno faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine and will remain in custody pending that hearing.

“These weapons often contribute to fueling the violence committed by drug cartels, which drastically affects communities both in Mexico and in the United States,” Craig Larrabee, Homeland Security Investigations San Antonio acting special agent in charge, said in the release.

“This investigation and prosecution highlight the fine work federal border security agencies perform each day, often behind the scenes and often unknown to the public. HSI will continue to aggressively investigate those who attempt to circumvent our nations customs law by concealing illicit goods destined to cross our borders,” Larrabee said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Craig Larrabee of HSI San Antonio.