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BP agent found guilty of stealing gun parts from federal armory

Device to make a pistol fire fully automatic was among stolen equipment

Federal jurors in Tucson found a Border Patrol agent guilty of stealing more than $100,000 worth of gun parts and equipment from a federal armory in West Virginia, including a device that modified a Glock pistol into a fully automatic weapon, and mailing them to Arizona. 

Agent Jesus Manuel Franco was found guilty Wednesday on two counts of possession and transfer of a machine gun, and one count of theft of government property for mailing 47 boxes containing firearms, scopes, sights, magazines and cleaning kits, at government expense, from the Use of Force Center for Excellence in Harper’s Ferry, W.V., to the Willcox Border Patrol station in Arizona. 

The jury acquitted Franco of a conspiracy charge, as well as more than a dozen counts of mail fraud stemming from the arrangement that Franco had with fellow agent Edwardo Jose Munoz Cruz, who received the boxes at the Willcox station and then took them to his home in Vail. 

Munoz Cruz was acquitted on all charges, including one count of conspiracy, one count of theft of government property, and 13 counts of mail fraud. 

Franco faces up a maximum of 10 years in prison, and 3 years of supervised release, and a $100,000 fine for the charges. 

According to the indictment, Franco, a former firearms instructor at the Willcox station, began working at the UFCE in Harper’s Ferry in November 2014. There, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operate a depository for seized and unusable firearms, including firearm parts, and equipment, including the destruction of some weapons. 

Within days of taking the assignment in Harper’s Ferry, Franco began texting Munoz Cruz telling him that he was shipping boxes to the Willcox station addressed to himself, according to court records. 

At one point, Franco texted, "I’m making out like a fucking bandit over here.... I almost feel a little tiny bit of shame.... Lol."

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Franco also texted pictures of knives, a laser "Aimpoint" sight, and Leupold spotting scope, and called them "sweet 'perks' of the job."

From November 2015 until January 5, 2016 Franco continued to ship boxes to the Willcox Station until finally a damaged box containing firearm parts showed up with a barrel peaking out from the side, court papers said. Border Patrol officials at the station determined that none of the items had been requested for the station. 

According to the indictment and call logs, Franco called the watch commander in Willcox and tried to get him to remove a silver scope from the detained boxes, telling the agent that the scope "probably could be illegal or construed to be illegal," according to the indictment. When the watch commander refused, Franco said "I’m done."

He later phoned a patrol agent in charge and told him that he had permission to ship the items from the UCFE, and the agent told him that if that was true, then there would be no problem. 

One of the items that Franco shipped was a "machine-gun conversion device" attached to a Glock Model 23 9mm Luger slide assembly, violating federal law regarding the sale and transfer of machine-gun parts.

Franco faces sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson on Monday, January 8. 

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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1 comment on this story

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Oct 5, 2017, 10:13 am
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Yes, but shouldn’t we fast track more Border Patrol hires? (sarcasm)

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U.S. District Court

A rifle with gun parts stolen from an armory in West Virginia and mailed to Willcox by a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The agent mailed more than $100,000 worth of parts, including a device to make a pistol fire fully automatic, to the Willcox station for himself and another agent.