Monday, March 20, 2017



Note: Update from earlier post.

Ammo smuggler sentenced to long federal prison term
Nogales International Mar 16, 2017

A 41-year-old Nogales man was sentenced to nearly eight years in federal prison for trying to smuggle 5,517 rounds of pistol and rifle ammunition into Mexico.

Gabriel Rivero was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frank Zapata to a 92-month prison term followed by three years of supervised release during a hearing Monday in Tucson. Rivero had been convicted by a jury in December 2016 of one count of smuggling goods from the United States.

Court records show that on Feb. 11, 2016, Rivero was driving a pickup truck through the Mariposa Port of Entry toward Mexico when a spare tire fell from under the truck approximately 75 yards from the border. Rivero reportedly stopped the truck and tried to pick up the tire, but couldn't. Instead, he got back in the vehicle and drove into Mexico, leaving the tire behind.

When U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inspected the tire, they found the ammunition hidden inside.

The incident was captured on surveillance video, which CBP officers used to identify Rivero. He was arrested when he tried to enter the United States on March 12, 2016, through the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry.

During an interview following his arrest, Rivero reportedly told investigators that he had expected to be paid $500 to transport the ammunition hidden in the spare tire from the United States to Mexico. However, in a pre-sentence memorandum, defense lawyer Christopher Scileppi cited evidence at trial showing that Rivero did not know that the spare tire contained ammunition, and instead thought it contained "a different type of contraband."

In a pre-sentence memo filed by the prosecution, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Woolridge noted the seriousness of the offense as well as Rivero's lengthy criminal record.

"The potential for injury and death from the defendant's offense, had he been successful, is staggering. Adding to the severity of the offense is that by virtue of his prior felony convictions, the defendant was prohibited from possessing ammunition," she wrote.

Those prior convictions included two aggravated assault offenses that stemmed from a 1993 Santa Cruz County case that involved a drive-by shooting and included additional charges of attempted murder and weapons offenses, Woolridge wrote.

After completing an eight-year prison sentence in that case, Rivero was convicted on Jan. 20, 2009, at Santa Cruz County Superior Court of attempted kidnapping and sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. "The defendant held a victim hostage in connection to a drug debt, and when rescued, the victim was covered in blood and reported that the defendant hit and kicked him in the face," Woolridge wrote.

In August 2009, Rivero was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute approximately 274 kilograms of marijuana after he and three other men were busted with the load in May 2008 at a home in the Monte Carlo neighborhood. He was sentenced to five years in prison followed by four years of supervised release, and was on supervised release at the time of his attempt to smuggle the ammunition into Mexico.

In his pre-sentence memo, Scileppi asked Judge Zapata to impose a maximum sentence of 72 months for the ammo-smuggling conviction. After the judge gave Rivero a 92-month prison term, Scilieppi notified the court of his intent to appeal, court records show. (???)


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