Quadriplegic man sentenced for smuggling guns to drug cartel

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SAN DIEGO — A Chula Vista man was sentenced in federal court Thursday to nearly six years in prison for smuggling assault rifles south of the border for use by a brutal Mexican drug cartel.

Sergio Garcia-Rico, 53, pleaded guilty in August to drug and weapons charges in the case, admitting that he bought firearms at gun shops and shows in California and delivered them to the  “Knights Templar,” described by U.S. authorities as an exceptionally violent offshoot of the La Familia Michoacana gang.

According to a federal complaint, Garcia-Rico, a quadriplegic, also hid thousands of rounds of ammunition in the bottom of his electric wheelchair, which he would carry in the back of his vehicle when he crossed into Mexico.

In handing down the 70-month custody term in San Diego federal court, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw told Garcia-Rico it was “obvious that these weapons are being used to kill people.”

“I think that is plain as the day is long,” Sabraw said. “That is what these weapons and munitions are used for.”

Sabraw also ordered Garcia-Rico to forfeit his house along with the weapons and a stash of about $11,000 in cash found in his van at the time of his arrest.

Garcia-Rico was arrested in January, when he attempted to cross into Mexico at Otay Mesa Port of Entry, according to prosecutors. A Customs and Border Protection officer found the contraband during a search of his vehicle, which had been modified to allow Garcia-Rico to drive it despite his physical limitations.

Garcia-Rico told authorities he had made up to $500 per weapon sale.

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