3 men face gun-running charges after Casa Grande bust
Three men were arrested on weapons trafficking charges after a Pinal County Sheriff's deputy found almost a dozen AK-47s and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition during a traffic stop outside Casa Grande on Saturday, authorities said.
The deputy stopped a 1998 Honda Accord sedan on Interstate 10 for a traffic violation just after midnight, a PCSO spokesman said.
The car was carrying three people, including the driver, later identified as 26-year-old Jorge Contreras of Phoenix, who did not have a valid driver's license, Sgt. Pat Ramirez said in a news release.
The deputy “could smell the strong and distinct odor of marijuana coming from inside of the vehicle” and questioned the three occupants. Contreras told the deputy there were guns in the trunk of the vehicle, Ramirez said.
The deputy found 10 AK-47 rifles, 10 100-round magazines, 10 30-round magazines and 1,080 rounds of ammunition in the trunk. The deputy also found a plastic bag with cocaine, marijuana, photocopies of driver's licenses belonging to an elderly couple, bank cards and Social Security cards, said Ramirez.
Because Contreras is a prohibited possessor of firearms after having been previously convicted of drug trafficking and theft, he was arrested, Ramirez said.
The passengers, Alfredo Leyva, 36, of Mexico; and Manuel Martinez, 52, of Douglas were also arrested, Ramirez said. Martinez also was a prohibited possessor of firearms because of a prior marijuana trafficking case.
During questioning, one of the suspects admitted to trafficking the guns, Ramirez said. The guns were being taken to the Mexico border where they would be handed through the fence to drug cartel members on the other side in exchange for money or drugs.
All three suspects were booked into the Pinal County Jail for trafficking in weapons, misconduct involving weapons, misconduct involving weapons and possession of cocaine and marijuana, said Ramirez.