Woman gets 15 years in prison on gun-running conviction
GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — A woman convicted of smuggling guns to Mexico has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Halil S. Ozerden sentenced Paula Villalva-Patricio on Thursday in Gulfport following her conviction by a jury in July on charges including conspiracy, smuggling goods outside the United States and transporting guns to people outside a state. She was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
Patricio and her husband, Jose Luis Santos-Garcia, were questioned in August 2011 when a sheriff’s deputy in Jackson County, Mississippi, found two pistols and two bullet-resistant jackets hidden in a four-wheeler that Santos was transporting in a pickup truck, court papers show.
The Winston-Salem, North Carolina, residents were released, but court records show a police officer secretly put a tracking device on their pickup. Just over two months later, nephew Javier Molina of Greensboro, North Carolina, was driving the same truck when he was pulled over in Jackson County and deputies found nine rifles, five shotguns, eight pistols, 902 rounds of ammunition, 16 magazines, five shotgun barrels, six gun stocks and two scopes.
Lawyers for the men objected to the tracker, but a judge overruled their objections, according to court records. They eventually pleaded guilty to smuggling charges in 2012. Molina was sentenced to just over four years in prison and a $3,000 fine, while Garcia was sentenced to just over eight years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
Homeland Security Investigations special agent Raymond Parmer said at the time of the men’s sentencing that they “were seeking to add to the bloodshed in Mexico by unlawfully smuggling weapons there for their personal enrichment.”
After his arrest, a criminal charge shows that Molina told federal agents that Patricio, her husband and her sons all worked in the gun-running business, but that Patricio handled the money and was in charge.
A grand jury indicted Patricio in 2012, but she wasn’t arrested until four years later in California.