Federal agents raided a Phoenix gun store May 6 in the biggest weapons bust in years. Authorities said the store was a source for at least 650 high-powered weapons, including 250 AK-47 automatic weapons, smuggled to Mexican drug cartels. The raid on X-Caliber Guns followed an 11-month investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Agents seized 1,300 weapons, closed down the business, and arrested owner George Iknadosian and two others, Hugo Miguel Gamez and Cesar Boroguez-Gamez. The Gamez brothers are accused of setting up a network of “straw purchasers” to procure weapons for the cartels.
Weapons traced to X-Caliber turned up at several Mexican murder scenes. In one recent Mexican bust, an X-Caliber AK-47 was found with grenade-launcher equipment and three tons of marijuana. One of the guns sold by X-Caliber was a .38-caliber pistol recovered in January when the Mexican army arrested a Sinaloan cartel leader, Alfredo Beltran Leyva, in Culiacán. Leyva was suspected of running hit squads and is right-hand man to Mexico’s most-wanted fugitive, cartel boss Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman.
Drug-related violence left 2,500 dead in Mexico last year, and Arizona weapons were used to assassinate police and battle army squads near the border, authorities said. During a Juárez gun-battle between the army and drug shooters, a .50-caliber rifle that had been bought in Arizona was used to kill a Juárez city police officer. (Arizona Republic, May 7)