Gun used in deadly kidnapping of Americans in Mexico came from U.S.
A man who admitted to purchasing firearms that he knew would be going from the U.S. to a Mexican drug cartel has been arrested in Texas after the discovery that one of the weapons was linked to the deadly kidnapping of four Americans, according federal court records.
Roberto Lugardo Moreno made an initial appearance Monday at a federal court in Brownsville and was appointed a public defender, who did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment. His detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
The kidnapping occurred in Matamoros, Mexico, which is located just across the border from Brownsville.
According to a federal complaint filed Saturday, Moreno has been charged with conspiring to illegally export a firearm. The complaint said that he admitted to buying firearms for people he knew were going to provide them to a member of the Gulf cartel in Mexico.
The serial number of a firearm he purchased in October 2019 matched that of a gun recovered by authorities that was linked to the March 3 kidnappings, according to the complaint. Moreno said he didn't apply for a license to export the firearm from the U.S. to Mexico, and knew it would be illegally exported, the complaint said.
Moreno told authorities that he received $100 for the purchase of the guns.
Four friends who were traveling to Mexico so one member of the party could have cosmetic surgery were caught up in a drug cartel shootout in Matamoros. After a vehicle crashed into their van, men in tactical vests with assault rifles arrived in another vehicle and surrounded them.
A video posted on Twitter at the time appeared to show the moment that the violent kidnapping took place, CBS News correspondent Christina Ruffini reported. In it, a woman is forced by armed men to climb into the bed of a white truck. The men, carrying guns, then proceed to drag two additional people into the vehicle.
Photographs from the scene reviewed by the Associated Press seemed to show a white minivan with gunshots through the driver's side window and all of its doors open. The van is stopped on the side of the road after apparently colliding with a red SUV, while people are lying in the street surrounded by armed men, according to the AP.
Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown appeared to have been killed immediately and their bodies were loaded into a truck with the two survivors, Eric Williams and Latavia McGee. The bodies and the two living friends were found days later in a shack. Officials previously confirmed that a Mexican citizen was killed in the attack. Before the Americans were found, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said in a statement that the four people had been kidnapped at gunpoint and that an "innocent" Mexican citizen died in the crossfire.
Federal and state officials escorted the two surviving Americans to an international bridge at the U.S.-Mexico border on March 7, several days after the kidnapping occurred, the attorney general in Tamaulipas — the state where Matamoros is located — confirmed at the time. Both Williams and McGee returned to Brownsville, where they received medical treatment. Williams had reportedly suffered a gunshot wound to the leg.
"The investigation is in its earliest days," said State Department spokesperson Ned Price of the abduction, immediately after Williams and McGee's return. "I understand we may have more to share from the FBI at the appropriate time."
Matamoros is home to warring factions of the Gulf cartel and has seen increasing violence over the past 10 or 15 years. Shootouts there on the day of the kidnapping were so severe that the U.S. Consulate issued an alert and local authorities warned people to shelter in place.
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