Two members of the California Army National Guard pleaded not guilty in federal court on Thursday to charges that they sold firearms to a purported Mexican drug cartel member.
The drug cartel member was actually an undercover ATF agent who engaged in a fourth-month sting leading to Wednesday’s arrest of the men, officials said.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Reyes, who enlisted with the California Army National Guard in 2008 after serving in the Marine Corps, appeared in court along with 22-year-old Specialist Jaime Casillas, who enlisted in 2011.
A federal judge ordered the two men be held in custody without bail, as prosecutors had argued the two frequently travel to Mexico and should be considered flight risks. The judge will address bail on April 20.
Reyes was taken into custody at his La Mesa home and Casillas was arrested during a traffic stop in El Cajon.
Court documents reveal that Reyes and Casillas sold dozens of firearms stolen from the military, including an AR-15 style rifle with a mounted scope. More than 4,000 rounds of military ammunition in sealed crates and 24 military body armor vests also were allegedly stolen, according to court documents.
The undercover agent purchasing the products told the men – who were in their uniforms for at least part of the sales process - that their weapons would be shipped to drug cartels in Mexico, the complaint said. During one transaction, the men allegedly showed up in their uniforms and collected $2,150 from the agent for an AR-15 rifle.
The California National Guard, which was not aware of the investigation until the men’s arrest on Wednesday, said it is cooperating with the federal probe.
Agents are trying to determine if any other guardsmen from the El Cajon Armory were involved.
Prosecutors called the allegations an ultimate betrayal.
“I think it’s shocking to every American sensibility,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Hayden said. “Men and women committed to wearing the uniform in charge of defense would turn around and do this.”