LOS ANGELES – A Long Beach woman from Southern California has pleaded guilty to federal offenses for illegally shipping tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition to the Philippines, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
Marlou Mendoz, 61, pleaded guilty on Monday in United States District Court to three counts of failing to provide the required written notice to freight forwarders that she was shipping ammunition to a foreign country.
Marlou Medoza admitted that she sent .22-caliber ammunition and bullets to the Philippines in three shipments in June 2011. The shipments contained 131,300 rounds, the defendant admitted in court.
Marlou Mendoza, who remains free on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 20 by United States District Judge George H. Wu. As a result of the three guilty pleas, she faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.
In a related case unsealed last year, Mark Louie Mendoza, the 31-year-old son of Marlou Mendoza, was charged with illegally shipping hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms parts and ammunition to the Philippines – munitions that were concealed in shipments falsely claimed to be household goods.
Mark Mendoza, who remains a fugitive, is named in an eight-count indictment that charges him with conspiracy, the unlawful export of munitions, smuggling and money laundering.
Mark Mendoza, who was the president of a “tools and equipments” company known as Last Resort Armaments, ordered more than $100,000 worth of ammunition and firearms accessories, much of which was delivered to his parent’s Long Beach residence over a six-month period in 2011.
The items that Mark Mendoza ordered included parts for M-16 and AR-15-type rifles, and these parts are listed as defense articles on the United States Munitions List. Pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act, items on the Munitions List may not be shipped to the Philippines without an export license issued by the Department of State.
The money laundering charge against Mark Mendoza alleges that during the first six months of 2011, Mark Mendoza transferred more than $650,000 in proceeds generated by the illegal ammunition exports from an account in the Philippines to a money remitter in Los Angeles.
“Federal export regulations and laws like the Arms Export Control Act are designed to prevent dangerous materials from reaching the hands of people who may cause harm to the United States, its interests, or its allies,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.
“This case involves a significant amount of ammunition destined for the Philippines, and once there the items could have been transported anywhere in the world and used for any purpose. This case exemplifies the importance of stopping the flow of illegally trafficked weapons to foreign nations, and the dedicated efforts of law enforcement to prevent such conduct.”
The charges against the Mendozas are the product of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The probe began in 2011 after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers uncovered a cache of ammunition and firearms parts in an outbound crate being shipped by Marlou Mendoza that had falsely been declared to be household effects. In November 2012, specials agents with HSI and ATF special agents executed a search warrant at a location associated with Last Resort Armaments and seized more than 120,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition, along with AR-15 trigger assemblies, magazines, sights and rifle barrels.
“The cache of ammunition seized in this case, which was destined for the Philippines, represents quite an arsenal and we don’t know who the ultimate buyers were going to be. They could very well have been individuals with sinister or violent intentions,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles.
“That’s why these kinds of exports are closely regulated, to help prevent sensitive items from falling into the hands of those who might seek to harm America or our allies.”
“Black market firearms and the illegal proceeds derived are a threat to everyone’s safety,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Eric D. Harden. “Federal law enforcement partnerships are key in discovering and dismantling large-scale, international criminal activity like the shipments orchestrated by the Mendozas.”
Mark Mendoza is charged with conspiracy, three counts of unlawful export of munitions, three counts of export smuggling and one count of money laundering. If he were to be convicted of all counts in the indictment, Mark Mendoza would face a statutory maximum sentence of 115 years in federal prison.