Guns and cash from the United States, drugs from Mexico. Two Atlanta men thought that was the trade they were making with Mexican drug traffickers, who turned out instead to be U.S. undercover agents.
A federal jury in Atlanta on Sept. 14 convicted Mark Anthony Beckford, 43, and Randy Vana Haile Jr., 29 on drugs and firearms charges.
“These defendants tried to give assault rifles and a machine gun to purported Mexican drug cartel members in exchange for kilograms of cocaine and marijuana,” Sally Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said in a news release.
In an April 23, 2009 meeting in San Antonio with an undercover agent whom they thought was a Mexican drug cartel representative, Beckford and Haile agreed to buy approximately three kilograms of cocaine and 500 pounds of marijuana, paying with a combination of money and firearms, the news release said.
On May 5, 2009, two undercover agents met with Beckford and Haile at a hotel parking lot in Smyrna, an Atlanta suburb, showing them the marijuana and cocaine in a trailer. The agents gave Beckford and Haile two hours to come up with the payment.
Later that day, agents arrested the men who were in a black Chevy Avalanche near the hotel parking lot. Inside the the vehicle, agents found $70,000 in cash, a loaded .40-caliber Taurus handgun, two Norinco 7.62-caliber SK assault rifles, and a 9-millimeter, fully automatic M-11 machine gun, according to the news release. More weapons and marijuana were discovered in a later search of a local restaurant linked to the defendants.
Beckford and Haile each face a minimum of 35 years in prison, the news release said.
In a speech last March, Mexico’s consul general in Atlanta, Salvador de Lara, said guns and cash from the U.S. contribute to drug-related violence in Mexico.
“We cannot be successful unless we fight it together,” Mr. de Lara told a breakfast meeting of the Mexican American Business Chamber.