The former mayor of a small New Mexico border town has pleaded guilty to charges he participated in a gun smuggling ring that federal prosecutors said sent hundreds of guns into Mexico, authorities said Wednesday.
Eddie Espinoza faces 65 years in prison. The 51-year-old was arrested in March along with two other Columbus town officials — police chief Angelo Vega and former trustee Blas Gutierrez. The three were among a dozen people charged in the federal sting.
United States Attorney John E. Murphy of West Texas announced Wednesday afternoon that Espinoza pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of making false statements in the acquisition of firearms and three counts of smuggling firearms from the United States during a hearing Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge William P. Lynch in Las Cruces.
"I am glad to hear about it," said Rosemary Zamora, who lost her job as a town police officer earlier this week because of the town's dire financial condition, which current officials blame on the indicted men.
"It's affected the whole community. We can't even get any grants because the government doesn't trust Columbus anymore," she said.
Earlier this week, the town's board of trustees shut down Columbus's three-member police department and reduced other employees' hours in an attempt by new Mayor Nicole Lawson to stabilize the budget.