A federal jury heard closing arguments Thursday in the trial of two Border Patrol agents accused of stealing $100,000 of gun parts from the agency.
Agent Jesus Manuel Franco, a former firearms instructor at the Willcox Station, and Agent Edgardo Jose Munoz Cruz are accused of conspiring to steal scopes, gun barrels and other equipment that Franco mailed in late 2014 and January 2015 from the agency’s armory in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to Munoz at the Willcox Station.
The alleged conspiracy was discovered when a box with a gun barrel poking out arrived at the Willcox Station. Dozens of boxes of gun parts were found later in Munoz’s garage in Vail, according to U.S. District Court documents.
Defense attorney Sean Chapman, representing Franco, told the jury his client’s actions were not in dispute. “What it turns on are what Mr. Franco’s intentions were,” he said.
Franco was trying to help his fellow agents during a gun shortage at the Willcox Station, Chapman told the jury.
Federal prosecutor Jane Westby said that explanation was “manufactured” after the agents’ arrests. She pointed to texts between Franco and Munoz in which they discussed mailing the gun parts as “making out like a ... bandit.”
Chapman said the prosecution “misrepresents” those texts. Rather than conspiring, the agents were joking and using lingo in a private conversation.
Defense attorney Michael Bloom said Munoz “blundered into a nightmare” when he agreed to take the boxes to his house, but Munoz fully cooperated with investigators.
Bloom said the prosecution’s case “needs a smoking gun” and Chapman said there was no evidence the agents tried to sell the gun parts.
Westby countered there would be no record of trying to sell the items because investigators seized them before the agents had a chance to sell them.
A federal grand jury indicted the agents in February 2016 on one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; 13 counts of mail fraud; two counts of possession and transfer of a machine gun; and one count of theft of government property.
The 12-person jury is scheduled to begin deliberating Friday, Sept. 29.