Alfredo Lomas Navarrete, the owner of a mobile phone store in Culiacán, Mexico, has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for his involvement in arms trafficking. Lomas supplied “hundreds of weapons and tens of thousands of rounds” to a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel known as Los Chapitos, according to prosecutors. The firearms, including .50 caliber rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers, were primarily acquired in California, Arizona, and Nevada.
Prosecutors highlighted that the majority of firearms trafficked in Mexico, including high-caliber and assault weapons, originate from the United States. They also noted that the proliferation of “ghost guns,” privately manufactured firearms, has exacerbated the problem. These weapons empower drug cartels to intimidate local communities, challenge state authority, and expand their deadly drug trafficking operations.
A study conducted in 2013 estimated that over 250,000 firearms are illegally transported from the United States to Mexico each year. A more recent statement from a Mexican government official suggests that around half a million firearms are trafficked across the border annually. The southward movement of weapons is facilitated by the minimal scrutiny faced by travelers entering Mexico compared to those crossing the border northward.
In 2021, the Mexican government filed a $10 billion lawsuit against ten U.S. gun manufacturers, seeking accountability for the deadly flow of firearms into Mexico. Although the lawsuit was dismissed, a federal appeals court in Boston is currently considering Mexico’s appeal to revive the case.
Alfredo Lomas, 33, was prosecuted as part of a decade-long investigation into the Sinaloa Cartel and its connections to San Diego. The investigation, known as Operation Baja Metro, focused on the Valenzuela drug trafficking cell, which is a significant component of the Sinaloa Cartel and one of the largest cocaine importers into the United States.
Jorge Alberto Valenzuela Valenzuela, the alleged leader of the Valenzuela cell, has pleaded guilty to three conspiracy charges related to cocaine trafficking and money laundering. He admitted to being a “leader in a drug trafficking organization associated with the Sinaloa Cartel” and ordering acts of violence on behalf of the organization.
Authorities claim that in 2020, Jorge Valenzuela and his sister, Wuendi Valenzuela Valenzuela, filled a void left by the murder of their brother, Luis Gabriel Valenzuela Valenzuela. Luis Gabriel was the logistical and financial operator of a money laundering network for Ismael El Mayo Zambada, a longtime partner of El Chapo who has been at odds with Los Chapitos.
Federal authorities have been working to dismantle the Valenzuela trafficking cell since Jorge Valenzuela’s arrest in late 2020. Dozens of cell phones seized during his arrest and a subsequent raid on a trucking warehouse in Otay Mesa revealed the extent of the family’s operation. Large caches of weapons, drugs, and cash were found in San Diego warehouses and other locations.
Wuendi Valenzuela, described as Jorge’s “right-hand,” recently pleaded guilty to the same three conspiracy charges as her brother. Prosecutors allege that Wuendi oversaw the income from drug trafficking flowing from the United States to Mexico. Similarly, Lomas played a role in transporting guns, other weapons, and ammunition southward, according to his guilty plea and sentencing documents. While the Valenzuela cell occasionally used its own trafficking networks and cross-border transport companies to smuggle firearms into Mexico, it heavily relied on Lomas and other arms traffickers