A South Florida man, Andrés Mejía Tellez, has been arrested during a federal sting operation during which he admitted to trying to export five AK-47 assault rifles to Bolivia from Miami, according to federal court records.
Mejía Tellez, 38, was arrested Sept. 14 after he told an undercover federal agent that he was aware that shipping AK-47s to Bolivia was against the law, according to a criminal complaint filed in Miami federal court by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The Mejía Tellez case was somewhat similar to a case in 2014 when a Miami resident was convicted of attempting to smuggle 11 AK-47s to Bolivia. Javier Nenos Rea, 34, was sentenced to 46 months in the federal penitentiary after pleading guilty in the case. That case was part of a broader international investigation that also led to the arrest of eight other people in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
Two of the suspects arrested in Bolivia were identified by Bolivian officials as police officers. At the time, Bolivian newspapers quoted investigators in Santa Cruz de la Sierra as saying that weapons smuggled from the United States to Bolivia ended up in the possession of a Brazilian drug-trafficking organization known as Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), a criminal gang largely based in Sao Paulo.
There is no evidence in court records that the case involving Mejía Tellez is connected to the 2014 Nenos Rea case.
According to the HSI special agent’s criminal complaint, the case began Sept. 13 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents discovered the seven AK-47s concealed inside a Bolivia-bound shipment marked as auto parts. Mejía Tellez was listed as shipper and Gary Muñoz Avalos in Santa Cruz as the recipient. The criminal complaint did not say who Muñoz Avalos was or whether he had been contacted in Santa Cruz, a city in eastern Bolivia.
The AK-47s and ammunition were wrapped in aluminum foil. Agents also found a telephone number for Mejía Tellez in the shipment’s paperwork, and HSI assigned an undercover agent to contact the man, according to the criminal complaint. The undercover agent, listed in the criminal complaint as a UCA, pretended to be an employee of the warehouse where customs investigators has discovered the rifles.
“The UCA advised Mejía Tellez that he examined the package Mejía Tellez had previously dropped off and discovered that it contained firearms, to which Mejía Tellez responded with a loud unintelligible verbal reaction,” the criminal complaint said. “The UCA further advised Mejía Tellez not to worry, that no one was aware of the contents, including his boss. The UCA advised that he would deliver the package as long as he was financially compensated.”
Mejía Tellez and the undercover agent haggled over the amount of compensation and settled on $400.
On Sep. 14 in the afternoon, Mejía Tellez drove to the warehouse and paid the undercover agent. He was subsequently arrested by other HSI agents.
After his arrest, Mejía Tellez told federal agents that he was responsible for the shipment, but the criminal complaint does not say if he provided any other information.
An HSI spokesman said he could not comment on the case because it’s still active in court. A lawyer for Mejía Tellez was not listed in the court docket.