FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - North Texas beautician Mary Jane Esparza may be the last person people would suspect of helping the Mexican drug cartels, but Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents say that’s exactly what she was doing.
Esparza, a 34-year-old mother three and Fort Worth hair stylist, has been arrested on charges she was helping smuggle guns for Los Zeta Drug Cartel.
Federal investigators believe Esparza was being paid to locate people who could buy guns that officials believe were then smuggled to Mexico.
“Often times the cartel members are convicted felons or they’re illegal aliens and they cannot legally purchase [guns] and pass the background checks,” explained ATF Special Agent Tom Crowley. “So, that’s why they have to employ people who can legally purchase weapons, or who might seem to fly ‘under the radar’.”
According to the federal complaint, Esparza is accused of offering to pay a man $800 to buy four semi-automatic weapons.
“Certainly a lot of times these drug cartels employ people they know, friends, neighbors, even relatives, or just somebody needing to make some extra money,” said Crowley.
ATF agents believe Esparza received the money to purchase guns and was paid by the Zeta Family Cartel.
Just last week a federal grand jury indicted and charged 13 North Texans with running a cocaine distribution conspiracy linked to the Zetas Cartel.
According to Agent Crowley, the ATF has investigated some 90 gun running cases in North Texas over the past year.