Former Tijuana Mayor Faces Gun Charges

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    FILE - This June 13, 2006 file photo shows then Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon in his City Hall office during an interview with The Associated Press, in Tijuana, Mexico. A Mexican official says that Hank Rhon has been arrested on suspicion of illegal weapons possession. Rhon was mayor of Tijuana from 2004 to 2007. He is a self-proclaimed billionaire who owns a dog-track and chain of gambling parlors. (AP Photo/David Maung, File)

    Mexican federal prosecutors said Wednesday they have charged a flamboyant former Tijuana mayor with illegal weapons possession.

    Jorge Hank Rhon was transferred from detention in Mexico City to a prison in the border city of Tecate, Deputy Attorney General Patricia Bugarin said at a news conference.

    Hank Rhon was arrested Saturday when troops found 40 rifles, 48 handguns, 9,298 bullets, 70 ammunition clips and a gas grenade at his Tijuana home near one of the casinos he owns.

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    An expert said the arrest of former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon means progress in Mexican war on crime.

    Ten of the weapons had licenses but none were registered to Hank Rhon, Bugarin said.

    Five were registered to public safety groups or police in Baja California state and Mexico City. Another five were registered to people who weren't among 10 others arrested and charged along with Hank Rhon, she said.

    The other 78 weapons didn't have a license, Bugarin said.

    A judge has three days to consider whether there is enough evidence to put him on trial, though Hank Rhon's lawyer, Fernando Benitez, said he plans to ask for an additional three days to present more evidence to clear his client.

    Benitez said the army raided Hank Rhon's compound without a search warrant, rendering the evidence inadmissible.

    "If the search is illegal, everything that was obtained through it is inadmissible as evidence," he said.

    The government has justified the raid by saying that soldiers witnessed a crime taking place and the immediate investigation led them to his house, making a search warrant unnecessary.

    Mexican law limits ownership of powerful firearms to the military and requires licensing of most other guns. Violations can be punished by as long as 30 years in prison.

    Benitez declined to comment on the substance of the charges, but referred to a statement Hank Rhon published Monday saying the guns weren't his and he had never seen them before.

    Hank Rhon was mayor of Tijuana from 2004 to 2007, but lost in a run for Baja California state governor that year. He is a self-proclaimed billionaire who operates a dog track and a nationwide chain of off-track betting parlors.