Texas man pleads guilty to smuggling gun linked to deadly Mexico kidnapping

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to purchasing a gun for a Mexican drug cartel that was linked to the deadly kidnapping of four Americans.

Roberto Lugardo Moreno Jr., 42, of Harlingen, Texas, appeared before a federal judge in Brownsville and entered his guilty plea to charges of straw purchasing and smuggling a firearm.

Lugardo Moreno bought a multi-caliber AR-style pistol at a pawn shop in 2019 and lied on a form stating he was the buyer when he purchased it for a Gulf Cartel member in Mexico, according to a federal complaint.

“All too often, firearms are trafficked into Mexico where they end up in the hands of criminals who use them to murder, rob and extort innocent people,” U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani said in a statement. "This case is a textbook example of the dangers involved when criminals transport weapons into Mexico.”

Sentencing was scheduled for August.

A public defender appointed for Lugardo Moreno did not respond to a call and email request for comment.

The kidnapping occurred in Matamoros, Mexico, which is located just across the border from Brownsville.

The serial number of a firearm Lugardo Moreno purchased in October 2019 matched that of a gun recovered by authorities that was linked to the March 3 kidnappings, according to the federal complaint. Lugardo Moreno said he didn’t apply for a license to export the firearm from the U.S. to Mexico and knew it would be illegally exported, according to the complaint.

Moreno told authorities that he received $100 for the purchase of the guns.

Four friends who were traveling to Mexico in March so one member of the party could have cosmetic surgery were caught up in a drug cartel shootout in Matamoros. After a vehicle crashed into their van, men in tactical vests with rifles arrived in another vehicle and surrounded them.

Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown appeared to have been killed immediately, and their bodies were loaded into a truck with the two survivors, Eric Williams and Latavia McGee. The bodies and the two living friends were found days later in a shack.