PHOENIX (CN) – A grand jury indicted 17 people and officials arrested nine and seized 300 automatic weapons bound for drug cartels in Mexico, federal prosecutors said. It was the second major weapons bust in Arizona this year.
Most of the 300 weapons were “AK-47 type rifles and automatic pistols,” U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke said in a statement.
“Here in Arizona, we continue to unearth a brimming cottage industry of gun exporters to Mexican drug cartels,” Burke said.
With violence out of control in his country, Mexican President Felipe Calderón has complained that weapons smuggled to Mexico from the United States are fueling the violence.
Many of the defendants are accused of acting as straw purchasers to buy weapons from licensed U.S. gun dealers. Burke called the gun-smuggling a “multi-state enterprise.”
A similar in January operation nabbed 34 suspected gun traffickers.
Among the indicted are two suspected undocumented aliens, Jose Beltran-Bermudez and Yazmin Arvayo-Palafox. They are charged with possessing 222 AK-47s and five pistols that were seized in Texas.
Four other indictments unsealed this week charge 15 people with being straw purchasers.
Francisco Muela Zapata, Francisco Zapata Jr. and Salvador Figueroa Resa are charged with recruiting others to buy guns.