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A Tucson couple are serving five years in prison for their roles in smuggling firearms from the U.S. to a criminal organization in Mexico, officials say.

Michael Justin Huynh, 29, was sentenced to 63 months last week after pleading guilty to smuggling AK-type and .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles from the U.S., according to a news release from the U.S. District Attorney's Office in Arizona.

His sentencing comes months after his girlfriend, Katie Ellen O'Brien, 28, was given a five-year sentence for her role in the smuggling case. 

Between June 2017 and January 2018, the couple purchased at least 17 rifles for a known drug trafficker. The firearms, worth approximately $30,750, were purchased from federally licensed dealers in Tucson.

They provided the guns "with the knowledge that they would be smuggled into Mexico and provided to a criminal organization," the news release said.

On Jan. 30, 2018, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives discovered a suspicious purchase of a .50 caliber rifle. Huynh paid $13,272 for it, but reported no income in 2017.

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Two months later, a search warrant was obtained for Huynh's apartment where agents found firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a glass pipe containing heroin residue, a court document said.

Huynh later admitted he was a heroin user and purchased the weapons on behalf of his heroin dealer for payments of cash and drugs, the document said. O'Brien also admitted to helping Huynh purchase the firearms and receiving payments.

O'Brien pleaded guilty to six charges, including making false statements during the purchase of firearms and smuggling goods from the U.S. on October 16, 2018.

Huynh would accept a plea agreement on June 20 for smuggling goods from the U.S.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1


Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.