A Long Beach woman pleaded guilty Monday to charges of illegally shipping thousands of rounds of ammunition to the Philippines, the United States Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Marlou Mendoza, 61, admitted to sending three shipments of .22-caliber ammunition, approximately 131,300 rounds, to the Philippines in June 2011.
Marlou pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to provide required written notice to freight forwarders that her shipments contained ammunition destined for a foreign country.
Currently, Marlou is free on bond and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge George H. Wu April 20. Since Marlou pleaded guilty to the charges, she faces a statutory maximum charge of 15 years in federal prison.
In a related case, Marlou’s son, 31-year-old Mark Louie Mendoza, was charged last year with illegally shipping hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ammunition and firearms parts, disguised and labeled as household items, to the Philippines.
Mark, who was the president of a “tools and equipment” company in Long Beach called Last Resort Armaments, is currently a fugitive. He is named in an eight-count indictment with charges including conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering and unlawfully exporting arms.
Through his business, Mark allegedly purchased more than $100,000 worth of ammunition and firearm accessories during a six-month period in 2011. Some of the items he allegedly purchased, including parts for M-16 and AR-15 type rifles, are listed as defense articles in the U.S. Munitions List and, in accordance with the Arms Export Control Act, may not be shipped to the Philippines without a license from the State Department.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Additionally, the money laundering charges against Mark allege that during the first half of 2011, he transferred more than $650,000 earned by the illegal transportations from an account in the Philippines to a money remitter in Los Angeles.
“Black market firearms and the illegal proceeds derived are a threat to everyone’s safety,” said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (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.”
ATF worked with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to investigate the Mendozas.
The investigation began in 2011 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discovered ammunition and firearms in an outbound crate shipped by Marlou which had been falsely labeled as household items. Then, in November 2012, HSI and ATF special agents seized more than 120,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition and AR-15 trigger assemblies, magazines, sights and rifle barrels at a location tied to Last Resort Armaments.
“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,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles, in statement. “They could very well have been individuals with sinister or violent intentions. 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.”
If Mark is found, tried and convicted, he would face a statutory maximum sentence of 115 years in federal prison.
Above, left photo of Mark courtesy of DOJ.