Harlingen, Texas, resident Roberto Lugardo Moreno Jr., 42, pleaded guilty this week to purchasing a firearm for a Mexican drug cartel member, a weapon later used in the heinous kidnapping and murder of two U.S. citizens in Matamoros, Mexico. The chilling case underscores the deadly reality of weapon trafficking, which casts a long and dark shadow over American-Mexican relations.
Moreno admitted to purchasing an AR-style pistol from a pawn shop in 2019 for a member of the infamous Gulf Cartel, lying on an official form stating he was the intended buyer. Traced back by its serial number, authorities later recovered the firearm after the grim kidnapping incident on March 3 in Matamoros, a border city across from Brownsville, Texas.
The victims, Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown, Latavia “Tay” McGee, and Eric James Williams, were caught in a drug cartel firefight. Woodard and Brown were killed instantly. Their bodies and the two surviving friends were later found in a shack days after the horrifying incident.
Here is a March report on the kidnapping:
“These weapons often contribute to fueling the violence committed by drug cartels, which drastically affects communities both in Mexico and in the United States,” remarked HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee, highlighting the grim consequences of firearm trafficking.
Moreno’s case underscores a severe problem facing the United States. The unlawful transport of weapons into Mexico often leads to these firearms ending up in the hands of violent criminals. This alarming trend endangers innocent lives on both sides of the border, perpetuating a cycle of violence that sows discord and tragedy in the community.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani in a statement. “This case is a textbook example of the dangers involved when criminals transport weapons into Mexico.”
Moreno received $100 for each firearm purchase, according to the confession he made to ICE Homeland Security Investigations agents. He is now facing a sentence of up to ten years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. His sentencing is set in August before U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera.
This case has highlighted the dedicated work of federal border security agencies, working often unseen and unsung to protect communities on both sides of the border. The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation, comprising Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, with assistance from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, was instrumental in bringing Moreno to justice.
Such dedication is crucial in disrupting and dismantling high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations threatening the United States. Even as the harrowing events of the March kidnapping serve as a stark reminder of the dangers of arms trafficking, they also shed light on the relentless efforts by our law enforcement to secure justice and protect safety from Joe Biden’s open borders policies.