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Tucson man sentenced to 6½ years in gun-buying scheme
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Tucson man sentenced to 6½ years in gun-buying scheme

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inspect a Mexico-bound sedan passenger vehicle at the DeConcini Port of Entry on Nov. 2, 2016, in Nogales, Ariz. Police at crime scenes in Mexico recovered 120,000 firearms that originated in the United States, annual reports from the ATF’s International Firearms Tracing System show. Firearms from the United States accounted for 70 percent of the 173,000 illegal guns recovered by the Mexican federal police at crime scenes and sent to the ATF for tracing since 2007.

A Tucson man has been sentenced to 78 months in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to fraudulently purchase firearms.

Timothy Veninga, 48, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy prosecutors said involved at least 31 fraudulent transactions meant to provide firearms to Mexican drug cartels, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

U.S. District Court Judge James A. Soto sentenced Veninga on March 15 to 78 months in prison after Veninga pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, aiding and abetting false statements in firearms transactions, making false statements to a government agency, tampering and identity theft.

Veninga was the owner of Ballistic Firearms in Tucson and paid individuals to lie on federal forms saying they were the ones who were buying firearms, according to the news release.

A co-defendant in the case, former Tucson police officer Joe Valles, was sentenced in July to 78 months in prison, as the Star reported at the time.

The purchased firearms included 24 semi-automatic pistols and seven rifles, including one semi-automatic assault rifle, one semi-automatic high-capacity rifle, and two .50-caliber semi-automatic rifles, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or cprendergast@tucson.com or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar

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