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No prison time for 3 people convicted in federal gun smuggling case

Two brothers from western Hidalgo County and a former La Joya school district clerk will not serve a single day in prison after pleading guilty to federal firearms charges.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced former La Joya school district clerk Rebecca Lynne Gonzalez, 55, of Mission; Rene Armando De La Garza Jr., 45, of Mission; and Ricardo Eden De La Garza, 37, of Mission, on Jan. 18.

20180126 gunsmugglersThey confessed to buying guns for a relative: western Hidalgo County businessman Lombardo Bazan-Barrera. They pleaded guilty to making false statements on federal firearms forms. And they testified against Bazan at trial.

Federal agents linked at least 39 guns to the group, according to court testimony. Officers also caught Gonzalez’s son, Joseph, attempting to cross the border with pistols they purchased at local gun shops. Investigators recovered several weapons at crime scenes in Mexico.

The jury, though, acquitted Bazan after a two-day trial in December.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the jury’s verdict,” Crane said during the sentencing hearing, adding that the acquittal required the court to consider equitable sentences for everyone else. “It’s definitely a conundrum, what to do here.”

After reviewing sealed motions from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and meeting privately with attorneys for the defendants, Crane handed down the sentences: Time served.

They didn’t actually serve any prison time. The sentence accounts for days they spent in federal custody waiting for a detention hearing.

“Mr. Bazan was acquitted. He was the ringleader,” Crane said. “So I have to make adjustments so everybody’s sentences proportionate and fair.”

Rebecca Gonzalez
The judge sentenced Rebecca Gonzalez to time served — eight days — and three years probation. She must spend the first nine months on house arrest.

Gonzalez said Bazan, her sister-in-law’s nephew, asked her to buy pistols for a shooting range. During the trial, Gonzalez testified that she trusted Bazan and didn’t know she’d broken the law until federal agents questioned her.

“If I would have known what he was going to do with the guns, I never would have purchased one,” Gonzalez said.

The La Joya Independent School District suspended Gonzalez, a supervisor’s clerk at Enrique Camarena Elementary School, without pay on Aug. 30, according to records obtained under the Texas Public Information Act. Trustees fired her two weeks later.

Rene De La Garza
The judge sentenced Rene De La Garza to time served — seven days — and three years probation. He must spend the first nine months on house arrest.

Rene De La Garza said he worked for Bazan, a distant cousin, hauling cars. During the trial, he admitted lying on federal firearms forms.

“It was just a family thing,” Rene De La Garza said, adding that he trusted Bazan. “A favor.”

Ricardo De La Garza
The judge sentenced Ricardo De La Garza to time served — eight days — and three years probation. He must spend the first year on house arrest.

Ricardo De La Garza, who is intellectually disabled, bought 21 guns for Bazan, according to court testimony.

“I believe Mr. Bazan preyed upon him as a gullible young man that Mr. Bazan could convince to purchase firearms for him,” said attorney O. Rene Flores, who represented Ricardo De La Garza.

Bazan hired Ricardo De La Garza, a distant cousin, to perform odd jobs, including washing cars and mowing grass. He trusted Bazan and bought the guns without question.

“I will never make this mistake again,” Ricardo De La Garza said.

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