Hanford Man, Rafael Sanchez Sentenced to More Than 7 Years in Prison for Orchestrating Firearms Trafficking Ring
FRESNO, CA (STL.News) Rafael Sanchez, Jr., 41, of Hanford, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd to seven years and three months in prison for orchestrating a large-scale firearms trafficking ring, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, between April 2016 and March 2018, while residing in Hanford, Sanchez identified firearms available for purchase in Tennessee with the assistance of various co-conspirators residing there. Sanchez transferred money to the Tennessee co-conspirators, who used the money to purchase, package and ship the firearms to Sanchez in California. With the assistance of others, Sanchez identified California-based purchasers and offered to sell and sold to them the firearms he received from the Tennessee co-conspirators. Neither Sanchez nor the six charged co-conspirators were licensed to deal or import firearms, and Sanchez was prohibited from possessing firearms because of a pior felony conviction in Kings County Superior Court for assault with a deadly weapon.
Five other defendants charged in the case have been convicted and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment and probation, including Alexis Sanchez, of Kettleman City, Veronica Ramirez, of Lemoore, and Tennessee residents Victor Luna, Ashley Sanchez and Elvia Sanchez. A seventh defendant, Juan Daniel Gonzalez Mejia, of Tennessee, was convicted of firearms trafficking and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 21.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Lenoir City – Tennessee Police Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee assisted in the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher D. Baker is prosecuting the case in the Eastern District of California.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.
This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.