Houstonian sentenced for firearm smuggling

LAREDO, Texas – A 50-year-old Houston resident has been ordered to federal prison for smuggling goods from the United States and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Leonel Avalos-Santoyo pleaded guilty June 6.

Today, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana ordered him to serve a 46-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release.

On April 25, 2020, Avalos-Santoyo traveled as a passenger in a commercial van from the United States into Mexico at the Lincoln Juarez Bridge in Laredo. Law enforcement stopped the vehicle and performed an inspection. During the search, they discovered five firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories inside Avalos-Santoyo’s luggage.

Upon further investigation, authorities determined that between Sept. 21, 2019, and Nov. 5, 2020, Avalos-Santoyo purchased 41 firearms at three federal firearms dealers in Harris County. During each transaction, he falsely claimed he was the actual buyer.

Previously released on bond, Avalos-Santoyo was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Customs and Border Protection. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Bowling prosecuted the case.

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