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ATF: Army Guardsmen tried to sell guns, ammo, armor to Mexico cartels

A federal complaint says the arms sales, which happened between August and March, included AR-15 rifles, handguns and body armor.

By Doug G. Ware
ATF: Army Guardsmen tried to sell guns, ammo, armor to Mexico cartels
Jaime Casilla, 22, and Andrew Reyes, 34, both reserve members of the U.S. Army National Guard, were arrested for allegedly selling numerous weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition that belonged to the U.S. military to an undercover agent in the San Diego area between August 2014 and March 2015. Photo by Eugene Berman/Shutterstock

SAN DIEGO, April 15 (UPI) -- Two active duty reservists of the U.S. Army National Guard were arrested in California on Wednesday for allegedly trying to funnel weapons, ammunition and body armor -- equipment that belonged to the U.S. military -- to outlaws in Mexican drug cartels, a federal complaint said.

Jaime Casillas and Andrew Reyes, ages 22 and 34, respectively, are each accused of selling firearms in California without certification. Reyes faces an additional count of purchasing weapons -- including multiple AR-15 assault rifles -- in Texas and transporting them to California.

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The men were stationed at the Army National Guard Armory in La Mesa, Calif., the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Both men were arrested Wednesday in San Diego, the complaint said, after a seven-month undercover operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The undercover officer is an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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Apparently, the document says, Casilla and Reyes dealt with an agent posing as a buyer who informed the men the weapons would be sent to Mexico and end up in the hands of cartel fighters.

The men even wore official U.S. Army clothing during one of the transactions, officials said. The suspects' interaction with an undercover agent allegedly happened between August and last month.

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The investigation began when an undercover agent with the DEA had a meeting with Casilla to discuss the sale and purchase of weapons and ammunition. According to the complaint, acquired by CNN on Wednesday, Casilla believed the agent to be an operative of a Mexican drug-trafficking organization.

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From the initial meeting, the suspects allegedly sold the undercover agent numerous firearms -- including an AK-47 assault rifle -- and thousands of rounds of ammunition, which investigators say were taken directly from the U.S. military's inventory.

During a later transaction, the document says, Casilla sold a handgun to the agent and stated that it had been used to "do a job" in Tijuana, Mexico. The specifics of what he referenced were not disclosed in the complaint.

All told, the government accuses the pair of selling six rifles, one handgun, thousands of rounds of ammunition, magazines and several body armor plates -- which can be placed inside vests and resist high-velocity ammunition -- for thousands of dollars.

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Reyes faces an additional criminal count for traveling to Texas to retrieve more AR-15 rifles, investigators said. Federal authorities, with the help of a tracking device placed on Reyes' vehicle, said they traced his movements all the way to Texas and back.

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During a meeting last month, Reyes allegedly offered a .50-caliber rifle to the agent for $15,000. Officials said that transaction, however, was not completed.

During most of the meetings, the undercover agent specifically informed Casilla and Reyes that the weapons, ammunition and body armor would ultimately end up in the hands of Mexican cartels.

Finally, the pair were arrested Wednesday -- Casilla during a traffic stop and Reyes at his home -- and taken into custody. According to the federal complaint, Casilla made some admissions to arresting authorities even after he was advised of his right to remain silent.

During one of the admissions, officials say, Casilla claimed that his participation in the trafficking was largely for the benefit of Reyes -- and that he didn't profit from the arms sales.

Casilla and Reyes were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon, the Union-Tribune reported.

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