LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Oklahoma man will spend the next 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to smuggling guns for the Mexican cartel into Arkansas.
A federal judge sentenced 46-year-old Andrew Scott Pierson Wednesday afternoon after Pierson pleaded guilty in November 2021 to charges of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, admitting to prosecutors that he was ordering parts for guns in the United States in order to build automatic weapons in Mexico.
In addition to the 12-years Pierson will serve, he will also have 3 years of supervised leave.
According to United States Attorney, Jonathan Ross “this is the first case in the country where a U.S. citizen has been indicted and fully prosecuted at this point for this kind of activity.”
Federal agents working as part of Operation: Thor’s Hammer traced the gun parts back to a group in Laredo, Texas. The agents said the parts were then sent across the border to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where Pierson would construct the automatic weapons.
“Mr. Pierson’s participation in the exportation and manufacturing of illegal firearms to Mexican cartels is an inexcusable contribution to the violence carried out by these groups,” United States Attorney Jonathan D. Ross said. “We are committed to prosecuting any case that will help prevent violent criminal organizations from obtaining firearms.”
Federal officials said those automatic weapons were used to arm the Cartel Del Noreste (CDN) and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG).
U.S. Attorney Ross says, “directly after the indictment of Pierson and his network, there was a substantial reduction of the availability of firearms to the CND and CJNG cartels.”
The defense for Pierson argued that the government had no way to determine the impact of their client’s actions on others, so they pushed against a higher sentence.
Prosecutors challenged, though, that from November of 2014, through December of 2018, Pierson spent working with the cartels justified a stiffer penalty.
An Arkansas man was the key to tracking down Pierson, prosecutors said, explaining that the man called law enforcement after being sent gun parts to modify. The man recognized the parts as counterfeit and contacted authorities.
Received a shipment of firearm components that had been sent to him for cerakoting, a process in which a polymer-ceramic coating is added to a firearm or its parts to improve durability.
At a press conference following Pierson’s hearing, Assistant US Attorney Alison Bragg held us an 80% lower receiver, the type of gun part the Arkansans was shipped.
She describes that the gun sent to the Arkansan “effectively does not exist in the eyes of law enforcement.” She refers to them as ghost guns and adds that “that’s what makes it hard to trace, hard to track and hard to put in the hand of criminals that use them to inflict violence.”
For this reason, it is unknown by the U.S. Attorney’s office how many guns Pierson put into the hands of these Mexican cartels.
Authorities said multiple agencies at the federal and local levels assisted in this investigation, including the agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration, attorneys from the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Pine Bluff Police Department.