A Long Beach woman and her son were named in separate federal grand jury indictments that charged them with illegally shipping firearms parts and ammunition worth thousands of dollars to their native Philippines—munitions that were concealed in shipments they falsely claimed to be household goods, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
A federal grand jury returned indictments for Marlou Mendoza, 60, and Mark Louie Mendoza, 30, on December 10, according to officials.
Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations arrested Marlou on Wednesday, January 20, at Los Angeles International Airport as she returned from a trip to the Philippines.
Marlou was charged with illegally shipping ammunition. The case against her was unsealed after she was taken into custody, authorities said.
Mark, a Philippines citizen, remains at large and may be in the Philippines, officials stated.
The U.S. Attorney’s office on Tuesday learned that a federal judge has unsealed the case against Mark, who is named in an eight-count indictment that charges him with conspiracy, the unlawful export of munitions, smuggling and money laundering, according to authorities.
Officials said Mark was the president of Last Resort Armaments—a “tools and equipments” company—and ordered more than $100,000 worth of ammunition and firearms accessories, much of which was delivered to his parent’s Long Beach home over a six-month period in 2011.
The items he ordered included parts for M-16 and AR-15-type rifles, which are listed as defense articles on the U.S. Munitions List. Items listed under this list may not be shipped to the Philippines without an export license issued by the Department of State, pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act.
Mark was charged with money laundering, which alleges that during the first six months of 2011, he transferred more than $650,000 in proceeds generated by the illegal ammunition exports from an account in the Philippines to a money transfer service in Los Angeles.
A three-count indictment accuses Marlou of failing to provide the required written notice to freight forwarders [which organizes shipment of goods] that she was shipping ammunition, officials stated. Marlou allegedly shipped tens of thousands of rounds of .22-caliber ammunition and bullets three times in 2011, according to the indictment.
“The Arms Export Control Act is designed to keep weapons out of the hands of people who may act against the interests of the United States,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker stated. “The weapons shipments charged in the indictments allowed firearm parts and ammunition to leave the United States and travel to the Philippines, where they could have been sold to anyone. Controlling the trafficking of weapons abroad is critical to protecting American interests abroad.”
Marlou was ordered released on a $10,000 bond pending trial, which is set for March 1. If convicted of all three counts, she faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.
Mark is charged with conspiracy, three counts of unlawful export of munitions, three counts of export smuggling and one count of money laundering. If convicted as charged, he faces a maximum statutory sentence of 115 years in federal prison.
The charges against the Mendozas began in 2011 after officers with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection found a supply of ammunition and firearms parts in an outbound crate being shipped by Marlou, that falsely declared to be household furnishings, officials stated.
In July 2011, the CBP and Philippine Bureau of Customs intercepted and seized three separate shipments from Last Resort Armaments containing about 180,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition, and more than three dozen receivers for AR-15 and M-16 assault rifles, officials added. In November, 2012, special agents with HSI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives executed a search warrant at a location connected to Last Resort Armaments, seizing more than 120,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition, along with AR-15 trigger assemblies, magazines, sights and rifle barrels, authorities stated.
“The ammunition and accessories seized in this case represent quite an arsenal. Once these goods reached the Philippines, we can’t be certain where they wound up – whether it’s in the hands of hobbyists or those with more menacing intentions,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “That’s why such exports are closely regulated, to help prevent sensitive items from falling into the hands of those who might seek to harm America or its interests.”