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Dropped tire laden with ammo leads to smuggling bust for Nogales-area man

A Nogales man was sentenced to 92 months in prison for a botched attempt to smuggle more than 5,500 rounds of ammunition into Mexico into Mexico last February. 

Gabriel Rivero, 41, was sentenced Monday to one count of smuggling goods from the United States by U.S. District Judge Frank R. Zapata after a jury found Rivero guilty after a trial in December. Following his prison term, Rivero will face three years of supervised release, said Cosme Lopez, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona. 

On Feb. 11, 2016, Rivero attempted to drive a pickup truck laden with thousands of ammunition rounds through the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales when his spare tire fell from the truck about 75 yards from the crossing. 

According to prosecutors, Rivero stopped his truck and tried to pick up the tire, but soon abandoned the effort, and drove through the port. When U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inspected the tire, still laying on the road at the port, they discovered 5,517 rounds of ammunition hidden inside. 

That included 360 rounds of widely available .22-caliber rifle rounds, more than 4,000 rounds designed for rifles, including AR-15s and AK-47 variants, along with more than 850 rounds used for several different pistols. 

On March 12 of last year, Rivero attempted to return to the United States through the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, but was detained by U.S. officials, who used video surveillance to identify Rivero as the man who had attempted to recover the bullet-stuffed spare tire. 

According to court records, Rivero told federal officials that he had been paid $500 to smuggle the rounds into Mexico. 

The investigation was conducted by agents with Homeland Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and CBP, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela W. Woolridge in Tucson.

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Last month, prosecutors announced that a Phoenix-area woman was sentenced to 30 months in prison for attempting to smuggle two semi-automatic AK-47-patterned rifles, along with 3,000 rounds of ammunition, and a tripod-mount for a .50-caliber sniper rifle, into Mexico last March. 

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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CBP

Cars wait in line for inspection at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales.