Records: Gun used in carjacking was straw purchase

McALLEN — A Monte Alto man faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of a federal gun charge as his trial is set to begin Tuesday, court records show.

McALLEN — A Monte Alto man faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of a federal gun charge as his trial is set to begin Tuesday, court records show.

Jose Joel Elizondo Jr., 39, faces a federal jury beginning Tuesday for his alleged role in a straw purchase of a gun that was later used in a carjacking, according to the indictment against him.

Elizondo was arrested last July after federal prosecutors alleged he had purchased a semi-automatic handgun that was later used by Jorge Luis Almanza-Barceñas in at least one carjacking in April of last year.

Almanza-Barceñas, 30, a Mexican national without legal status in the country, was arrested in early May of last year in connection with two alleged carjacking incidents.

During one of those carjackings, Almanza-Barceñas used the gun Elizondo is alleged to have illegally purchased from a San Juan pawn shop a year and three days before the carjacking, according to the indictment filed against the two men.

Federal prosecutors allege that on April 9, 2016 Elizondo violated federal gun laws when he visited the Cash America Pawn in San Juan and purchased a Beretta, Model PX4 Storm, 9mm caliber pistol — claiming on the federal gun form that the gun was for him but in actuality was for Almanza-Barceñas, the indictment reads.

“(Elizondo) falsely represented on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Form 4473, that defendant (Elizondo) was the actual buyer of the firearm described above, when in truth and fact the defendants knew that those statements and representations were false and that defendant (Elizondo) was not the actual buyer of the firearm,” the record states.

Prosecutors allege that days after Elizondo purchased the handgun from the pawn shop, Almanza-Barceñas used it to steal a sports utility vehicle in an unknown location in Hidalgo County, the complaint filed against Almanza-Barceńas states.

According to the complaint, Almanza-Barceñas took the SUV, a 2016 Toyota RAV4, on April 12, 2017 by “force and violence and intimidation,” and “with intent to cause death and serious bodily harm.”

It was further noted in the complaint that the SUV had been “transported, shipped and received in interstate commerce and foreign commerce from the person and presence of Y.C.”

Almanza-Barceñas was also implicated in a carjacking on March 27, 2017, court records show.

Last September, Almanza-Barceñas pleaded guilty to all the counts against him — reentry by deported alien; penalty for firearms; motor vehicle theft-carjacking; violent crimes; and unlawful transport of firearms, according to court records.

As part of the plea agreement, Almanza-Barceñas must pay back full restitution, which will be determined at a later date, to the victims of the carjackings, the record states.

“Defendant understands and agrees that the court will determine the amount of restitution to fully compensate the victims, that restitution imposed will be due and payable immediately, and that defendant will not attempt to avoid or delay payment,” the record states.

Almanza-Barceñas is scheduled to be sentenced April 19 and faces up to 15 years in prison, court notes show.

According to court records, federal prosecutors are expected to enter several pieces of evidence during Elizondo’s trial; including the aforementioned firearm, the form that Elizondo filled out at the pawn shop, and a video record of Elizondo’s alleged confession, to name a few.