A federal judge in New Orleans sentenced a Florida man to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for trying to buy scores of assault rifles, hand grenades and other firepower from an undercover federal agent in Covington to smuggle to Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey handed Jaime Jauregui, 36, the maximum: five years for conspiracy to violate the federal Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, and 10 years for possession of unregistered firearms. However, he ordered that the sentences run concurrently.
Jauregui was in federal custody prior to Tuesday’s sentencing, which came almost five months after a jury convicted him on Oct. 29 after a 2 1/2-day trial.
Federal agents received information in January 2012 that Jauregui was interested in obtaining assault rifles, hand grenades and similar items to be smuggled to Mexico, according to court documents.
He met at least four times between January 2012 and March 2013 in St. Tammany Parish with an undercover Homeland Security agent acting as an arms dealer to negotiate the purchases. Jauregui provided cash deposits totaling $46,000.
According to testimony presented at his trial, Jauregui told the agent they would follow a tractor trailer to Texas, get paid and leave the arms to be smuggled across the border to a Mexican drug cartel.
They never got that far. Moments after he loaded several wrapped assault weapons into an ice chest at a Mandeville storage facility, Jauregui was left shouting “entrapment” while being arrested.
Jauregui was captured on video as the two men sat in an SUV, discussing the weapons deal, making small talk and working out the mechanics of the shipment. His arrest also was taped.
Jauregui’s defense attorney, federal public defender George Chaney, suggested during the trial that his client was roped in by the agent, never took control of any weapons and may have just been talking a big game about a Mexican drug cartel.
Chaney described the federal sting as a “little charade,” noting that the hand grenades were “props.”
The agent testified that he told Jauregui he was supplying him with stolen military weapons as part of the ruse.
During the sting, Jauregui told the agent he wanted everything he had offered, including 60 M-4 rifles, 50 AK-47s, grenade launchers, grenades and night-vision goggles.
He gave the agent $1,000 as an initial deposit, later returning with $20,000, then another $5,000 and, on the day of the arrest, still another $20,000.
Jauregui brought along some friends to drive some of the weapons back to his Florida ranch, federal authorities said.
Three of them pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2013.
Ruben Jauregui received 14 months of probation on a conviction for misprision of a felony. Francisco Maldonado received a 15-month prison term after also pleading guilty to misprision of a felony.
Carlos Cabrera was sentenced to three years of probation on a drug charge. Zainey revoked his probation for violations and sentenced him last month to nine months in prison.
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