Tuesday, September 11, 2012



Convicted felon pleads guilty to gun trafficking charges
September 11, 2012 9:14 PM

Ildefonso Ortiz
The Monitor   

McALLEN — A Mission man pleaded guilty to firearms trafficking charges just moments before his trial was set to begin.

Jose Luis Tovar entered his plea before U.S District Judge Micaela Alvarez on Tuesday morning, pleading guilty to two counts of unlawful transport of firearms. His sentencing hearing is set for Dec. 12.

Prosecutors accused Tovar and his brother, Jerry Tovar, of selling a total of six guns to undercover agents in May. Both Tovar brothers have previous felony convictions out of Benton County, Wash., and are not able to legally own firearms. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents contacted Jerry Tovar's probation officer, who told them that the man was on probation out of Montgomery County, Ala., for firing a weapon into a building and had not reported for more than two months.  

Authorities began looking into Tovar on May 1 after he tried selling a chrome Beretta handgun and an Uzi pistol to an undercover DEA agent. Three days later, the DEA agent was able to coordinate a gun buy, but Tovar didn't have the weapons with him, court records show. 

On May 9, the DEA agent used a confidential informant to set up and negotiate a firearms sale with Tovar where they discussed the prices and types of weapons. The Tovar brothers sent the informant pictures of the weapons and the DEA agent went to their home in the 1800 block of Oasis Street in Mission, where the informant saw the weapons and took pictures of them.

On May 10, federal agents coordinated an operation to have the undercover DEA agent buy five weapons, but Tovar gave the agent a sixth weapon.

The weapons the brothers sold to the DEA agent include two 9 mm pistols, a 9 mm Uzi-type rifle, an Ak-47 clone, an AR-15 rifle and an Iver Johnson .30-caliber carbine.

Jerry Tovar pleaded guilty Aug. 30 to weapons and drug conspiracy charges and awaits sentencing.

The drug charges to which Jerry Tovar pleaded include conspiring with two Duval County sheriff's deputies to have them move cocaine loads for them using their Sheriff's Office vehicles.

In connection with those charges, authorities indicted Ruben Silva and Victor Carrillo, who were the two sheriff's deputies.

The men pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges last month, admitting to their role in using their police vehicles and uniforms to steal drugs from a drug dealer and send them to the Tovars in Mission for distribution. The two deputies also used police vehicles to smuggle cocaine from the Tovar brothers north from the border. The deputies remain in custody awaiting sentencing.

Ildefonso Ortiz covers courts, law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at iortiz@themonitor.com and (956) 683-4437.

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