El Paso (Texas), April 13 (IANS/EFE) A US Border Patrol agent and his girlfriend are in custody on charges of conspiring to buy firearms and ammunition and smuggle them to criminal gangs in Mexico, according to court documents.
Ricardo Montalvo, 28, and Carla Gonzalez-Ortiz, 29, were arrested Monday after a federal grand jury sitting in the El Paso Division of the US District Court for the Western District of Texas handed down a 20-count indictment.
Montalvo and Gonzalez-Ortiz are accused of acting as intermediaries to purchase nine firearms, including AK-47 assault rifles, as well as about 100 high-capacity ammunition clips and tens of thousands of high-caliber bullets they knew were bound for Mexican drug cartels.
Spokespersons for the US Border Patrol's El Paso sector confirmed that the agent had worked since 2005 at the Ysleta substation.
Montalvo and his girlfriend, a Mexican citizen and permanent legal resident of the US, could be sentenced to up to 10 years behind bars if convicted.
The indictment covers a three-month period in which Montalvo, Gonzalez-Ortiz and other buyers allegedly acquired nine firearms that they claimed were for their own use.
The agent also allegedly made illegal purchases of around 20,000 rounds of ammunition and 97 high-capacity ammunition clips that are in high demand by Mexican drug cartels.
This is the second case in the past several weeks in which public officials have been implicated in weapons smuggling to Mexican drug cartels.
In March, the mayor and chief of police of Columbus, New Mexico, were arrested on similar charges.
President Felipe Calderon's administration says the US is largely responsible for high levels of drug-related violence in Mexico, citing the high demand for illegal drugs in that country and the cross-border flow of weapons to the violent cartels.