LAWFUEL – Law, legal, crime, attorney, litigation newsMarcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Julie Torres, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and Jesus Torres, Special Agent in Charge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced today that a federal grand jury sitting in Miami, Florida, returned a Superseding Indictment against seven (7) defendants in connection with a conspiracy to export arms to South America. Six (6) defendants, Rafael Samper, Edgar Semprun, Antonio Tarrab, Raul Gomez DeMolina, Bilmer Paz, and Rodney Sharp, were originally charged on August 19, 2004, in a nine (9) count Indictment with violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968 for their participation in an organization which supplies arms, ammunition, and other military supplies to organized paramilitary groups in South America. Today’s thirteen count (13) Superseding Indictment adds new charges against Joseph Ruiz, the owner of Dade County Guns & Ammo, a federally licensed firearms dealer in Miami, Florida, based on allegations that Ruiz used his business to supply many of the weapons and rounds of ammunition purchased and exported by the organization.
The Superseding Indictment charges Ruiz with conspiring with other members of the organization to export weapons and ammunition illegally to South America, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, Title 22, United States Code, 2778(b); and with several violations of federal firearms laws, including delivering large quantities of military type ammunition to foreign nationals, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, 922(d)(5)(B); possession of a machinegun, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(o); and violations of the record-keeping laws regulating the sale of firearms by licensed dealers, Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(b)(5).
As set forth in affidavits supporting Ruiz’s arrest on September 28, 2004, the joint investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has revealed that Ruiz was responsible for supplying the majority of the weapons and military ammunition seized by law enforcement agents in June 2004 from a Miami warehouse facility. The arrest documents also indicate that on June 22, 2004, Ruiz provided 48,000 rounds of the military ammunition to members of the organization and confidential sources from a truck parked in an alley behind his business. That ammunition was found by law enforcement agents on June 23, 2004 concealed inside large appliances, along with nearly 200,000 more rounds of the same ammunition on a 40-foot shipping container bound for Venezuela. The investigation also has revealed, as alleged in fillings in this case, that the organization was in the business of purchasing firearms and ammunition in the United States and then exporting them by sea to Venezuela, where they are sold for profit to the highest bidders, and that many of the purchases in Venezuela were made by buyers and suppliers acting on behalf of the Colombian FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolutionaries de Colombia) and the Colombian Paramilitary Group, AUC (Auto Defensas Unidas de Colombia). Both of these groups have been designated by the U.S. State Department as terrorist organizations.
To date, the investigation has led to the arrests of six (6) defendants and the seizure of more than 700,000 rounds of ammunition, more than 200 weapons, and many tools and parts necessary for the building of many more automatic weapons. One (1) defendant, Rodney Sharp, remains a fugitive.
If convicted, the defendants face various statutory maximum sentences ranging from five (5) years’ imprisonment to ten (10) years’ imprisonment per count and up to $1 million in fines.
Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Melissa Damian.