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PRESS RELEASES

MISTIC Task Force Investigators Seize 23 Military Grade Grenade Casings and Arrest Three Suspects

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 -

On November 17, 2009, investigators from the Metro Intelligence Support Technical Investigation Center (MISTIC) Task Force conducted a two-day investigation in the Phoenix metropolitan area which resulted in the seizure of 23 military grade grenade casings and the arrest of three suspects. The MISTIC Task Force is composed of investigators from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Office of the Arizona Attorney General (AZ AG). The MISTIC group also received personnel assistance from the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) with this investigation.

The MISTIC investigators initially received confidential information that there were individuals in the Phoenix metropolitan area that were in possession of military grade grenades and wanted to sell them. An investigation was begun which started with an undercover operation on the first day that led to the purchase of seven round type, military grade grenade casings. This operation allowed the investigators to identify specifically what type of devices were actually being sold, identify the suspects ascertain their intent with the sale of the devices, and determine what the suspects were purporting the capability of the grenades and the actual capacity of the devices. On the second day of the operation, 16 pineapple type military grade grenade casings were purchased. The investigators were confident at this point that they now had seized all the grenade casings that were in the control of the suspects and moved to arrest all three.

The suspects sold the grenades for $400.00 each. The grenade casings were inert and did not contain all the parts to make them an active device but just on visual appearance a person could be led to believe they had the capacity to explode or fragment. The suspects purported that the devices did have the capacity to kill people. The investigators were not able at this stage of the investigation to determine were the suspects specifically obtained the devices. However, the investigators were able to determine through the undercover operation that the grenades were intended to be transported into Mexico. This illegal operation with the grenades is similar to the problems Arizona law enforcement agencies face with various types of firearms and military weapons being obtained illegally in the United States with the intent of being transported into Mexico.

The grenade casings or shells when they are configured into an inert format are not illegal to possess or to be sold. They become an illegal dangerous weapon when they are reconfigured to make them active or when a suspect purports as a form of intimidation that the device will explode or purports for sell that the device can explode or fragment.

Unfortunately, the real danger was that the grenade casings had the potential to be reconfigured to an active device capable of exploding or fragmenting. This investigation is a real success story of making the community safer because the seizure of the 23 very dangerous devices by the MISTIC Task Force prevented them from winding up in the wrong hands. A grenade of the type seized in this investigation has a kill range upon explosion to about 20 meters. The devices were initially examined and evaluated by personnel from the DPS Explosives Ordinance Disposal unit and then rendered safe.

The suspects will be prosecuted by the Office of the Arizona Attorney General and charged with the following felony crimes: Misconduct Involving Weapons; Misconduct Involving Weapons by a Prohibited Possessor; Misconduct Involving a Simulated Explosive Device; Conspiracy; Illegal Control of a Criminal Enterprise and Money Laundering. All three suspects were booked into the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail.

Suspects:

Jesus E. Rodriguez-Avena, age 19, residency not confirmed at the time of arrest

Fernando Calderon Suazo, age 34, undocumented alien, resident of Mexico

Alberto Prieto Molina, age 24, undocumented alien, resident of Mexico

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