ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Federal and state agents charged 25 people and seized more than 230 firearms in a yearlong undercover sting operation unveiled Wednesday by U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales.
For the past year, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operated a thrift shop called "Jokerz Traderz" at 1309 San Mateo NE in Albuquerque.
The shop operated as a normal thrift store using merchandise donated by Target Corp.
The undercover agents operating the store purchased the firearms - including a machine gun, 37 stolen weapons and 15 with obliterated serial numbers - from 25 men and women, including 13 with felony convictions.
Three cases have been referred to District Attorney Kari Brandenburg's office for prosecution.
"They came to us," said Bill Newell, special agent in charge of the ATF offices in Arizona and New Mexico. "They sought us out to sell these weapons."
"This was an effort by a small office to remove guns used by violent criminals from the streets," he said.
Newell and Gonzales said the ATF will trace and test the weapons to determine whether they were used in violent crimes.
Stolen weapons will be returned to their owners after the court cases have been completed.
Gonzales said, "This investigation was aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of those people who cannot legally possess them and at removing illegal guns from our streets. These problems don't go away overnight."
Most of those charged face a few charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, while some are also charged with selling various types of drugs.
But Guillermo "Moreno" Medel, 28, was charged with 11 counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and one count of possessing a machine gun.
Medel was convicted in state District Court in Bernalillo County of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and possession of a controlled substance in a plea agreement stemming from a 2006 case. He was originally charged with kidnapping and armed robbery with a deadly weapon.
The federal indictment charges Medel with possession of a Romanian model, fully automatic AK-47.
Gonzales praised the teamwork of area law enforcement agencies in the operation and Wednesday's arrests including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service, Albuquerque Police Department and Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department.