RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Five people were charged with organizing a money laundering and firearm trafficking conspiracy to smuggle guns into Mexico, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced on Tuesday.

The indictment alleges Cortney Highsmith, 43, and Steven Martinez, 26, bought multiple firearms from federally licensed firearms dealers between Jan. 27 and Feb. 7 certifying that they were the “actual transferee/buyer” of the firearm.

U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said they transferred the firearms to Luis Martinez, 29, who is not a legal citizen and is banned from owning firearms. The indictment alleges Luis Martinez conspired with Roberto Martinez, Highsmith and Gilberto Hernandez, 28, to transport the guns to Mexico.

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The firearms were intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on Feb. 19 at the Del Rio, Texas port of entry. Easley said the vehicle carrying the guns was traveling to Durango, Mexico.

The following defendants and their charges are as follows:

  • Cortney Highsmith, of Garland – conspiracy to make a false statement to a federally licensed firearms dealer, five counts of making false statements to a federally licensed firearms dealer, straw purchasing firearms and trafficking firearms. Highsmith faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
  • Luis Martinez, of Roseboro – conspiracy to make a false statement to a federally licensed firearms dealer, trafficking firearms, smuggling goods from the United States, money laundering conspiracy and alien in possession of a firearm. Martinez faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He is also the only defendant that has not been arrested.
  • Steven Martinez, of Tarheel – charged with conspiracy to make a false statement to a federally licensed firearms dealer, two counts of making false statements to a federally licensed firearms dealer and straw purchasing firearms. Martinez faces up to 15 in prison if convicted.
  • Roberto Martinez, of Roseboro – trafficking firearms and money laundering conspiracy. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
  • Gilberto Hernandez, of Selma – smuggling goods from the United States and money laundering conspiracy. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

This case is being prosecuted under the new criminal provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which U.S. Congress enacted and President Joe Biden signed in June 2022. The Act is the first federal statute specifically designed to target the unlawful trafficking and straw-purchasing of firearms.