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Mexican woman sentenced in drugs-for-military weapons conspiracy

Dragon anti-tank weapon

A federal judge sentenced Emilia Palomino-Robles to 10 years in prison for her role in a conspiracy to trade drugs for a slew of military-grade weapons she intended to help ship to drug cartels in Mexico.

On March 5, Palomino–Robles, 42, a resident of Sonora, Mexico was sentenced after pleading guilty to the conspiracy and drug distribution charges in 2011. She admitted that she was a courier in the delivery of 2,029 grams of pure  methamphetamine to arms dealers that was to be exchanged for a $139,900 partial payment for military–grade weaponry, including Stinger shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank missiles, heavy machine guns and other heavy-duty weapons. The weapons, said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) on March 6, were ultimately destined for the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, the largest of the Mexican narco-cartels.

The cartel masterminds of the negotiations, David Diaz–Sosa and his associate Jorge DeJesus–Castenada were arrested in 2009, along with Palomino-Robles after an ATF sting operation. Diaz-Sosa and DeJesus-Castendaa were indicted by a grand jury on multiple conspiracy counts involving drugs and weapons in 2011.

“With the confiscation of a significant quantity of methamphetamine and U.S. currency, this operation not only delivered a financial blow to a Mexican drug trafficking organization, but it also prevented further cartel violence by keeping dangerous weapons out of their hands,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel.

“It is clear that these criminal organizations and drug cartels based in Mexico continue to look towards the United States and in particular the Southwest Border States as a source of supply for firearms and in this case military grade weapons such as; grenades, machine guns, and Man–Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS),” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Thomas Atteberry.  

In late 2009, Diaz–Sosa, a weapons and narcotics broker, began negotiating the purchase of high–powered, military–grade weapons for the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, the largest of the Mexican Drug Cartels, said ATF. Shortly after the negotiations began, Diaz–Sosa arranged for the delivery of 4.5 pounds of methamphetamine to serve as a down payment for the weapons, it said. Palomino–Robles made that initial delivery on behalf of Diaz–Sosa, said the agency, and for the next three months, Diaz–Sosa and his partners negotiated with undercover federal agents to buy an arsenal of military weapons including:

•A Dragon Fire anti–tank weapon;

•Two AT–4s (an 84–mm unguided, portable, single–shot recoilless smoothbore weapon);

•A Law Rocket (a Light Anti–Tank Weapon);

•A Stinger Missile (a portable infrared homing anti–aircraft surface–to–air missile);

•Two Def Tech grenade launchers and a dozen 40 mm grenades;

•One M–60 machine gun;

•One .30 caliber machine gun; and

•Three cases of hand grenades.

As negotiations continued, Diaz–Sosa and his associates agreed to exchange both cash and methamphetamine as a final payment for the weapons.

On Feb. 17, 2010, Diaz–Sosa, said ATF, went to an undercover warehouse, maintained by the agency, to finalize the weapons exchange, where he and DeJesus–Castenada were taken into custody by federal agents. At the time of his arrest, DeJesus–Castenada possessed with the intent to deliver over 11 pounds of methamphetamine. Later that same day, Palomino–Robles was arrested in possession of $139,900, which was determined to be an additional portion of the weapons payment, it said.

 

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