JACKSON — A man and his nephew have been sentenced in Mississippi to federal prison for using the same truck twice on the same route to try to smuggle guns from the North Carolina to Mexico. The nephew was pulled over in the truck just two months after his uncle was arrested and authorities hid a GPS tracking device on it, according to court records.
Jose Luis Santos-Garcia and his nephew, Javier Molina, both pleaded guilty in the case. They were sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport.
Santos-Garcia was sentenced to just over eight years in prison to be followed by three years on supervised release. Molino was sentenced to more than four years in prison with three years on supervised release. Each man was fined $3,000, according to court records.
Santos-Garcia was pulled over on Interstate 10 in south Mississippi’s Jackson County while driving a black 1994 Ford Ranger on Aug. 28, 2011. He was charged with attempting to smuggle two pistols, three bullet-proof vests and stolen four-wheelers to Mexico, court records say.
Authorities placed a GPS tracking device on the truck. About two months later, Molina was pulled over in the same truck on I-10 and arrested for carrying nine rifles, five shotguns, eight pistols and ammunition, according to the court records.
Court records say the men were traveling to Mexico from North Carolina, but didn’t say which cities.
Santos-Garcia was traveling with his wife when he was pulled over and allegedly told police he had transported vehicles before for $2,000. The couple had prior arrests for immigrant smuggling. Santos-Garcia had also been charged in April 2011 for possessing six kilograms of cocaine, court documents said.
After Santos-Garcia’s arrest, authorities said they placed the tracking device in the undercarriage of the truck before it was released from police custody.
The device alerted authorities that the truck was on the move in North Carolina on Oct. 31, 2011, but the signal was lost the next day when the truck was in Montgomery, Ala., court records said. A deputy who had assisted in Santos-Garcia’s arrest was stationed along the interstate in south Mississippi and spotted the truck.
Santos-Garcia’s lawyer had argued in court records that evidence in the case should have been thrown out because he was pulled over for driving with a cracked windshield. The lawyer argued that there’s no state law against driving with a cracked windshield.
The judge sided with police, who considered the cracked windshield “defective equipment” and a violation of state law. The truck had the same cracked windshield when Molino was pulled over, court records said.