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Las Vegas man who aided SEAL’s conviction sentenced

A Las Vegas felon whose cooperation led to the conviction of Navy SEAL Nicholas Bickle on arms trafficking charges was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.

Omar Aguirre, 36, also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after he gets out of federal prison.

Aguirre, who was convicted in New Mexico in 1999 of possession with intent to distribute more than 100 pounds of marijuana, had pleaded guilty to a firearms conspiracy charge in the weapons trafficking case.

In court Friday, an emotional Aguirre told Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt that being charged in the arms conspiracy ended up saving him from a life of drug addiction — and probably saved his life.

“This was the best thing to happen to me,” said Aguirre, who explained afterward that he was hooked on painkillers.

Aguirre said he since has learned through therapy to overcome his addiction and low self-esteem that stemmed from his molestation at the age of 7.

“I know I’m going to be locked up, but at least in my heart and mind, I’ll be free,” Aguirre said.

His lawyer, Charles Kelly, did not oppose the five-year prison term Hunt handed out. Probation officials recommended the same sentence.

Hunt described Aguirre’s life-changing experiences as a “silver lining” in the case, and he commended Aguirre for moving to turn his life around. Hunt ordered him to surrender to prison authorities by Jan. 6.

A federal jury earlier this month convicted Bickle, a petty officer first class, of 13 counts in the arms conspiracy after a three-week trial. He is to be sentenced on Feb. 3.

Prosecutors identified the San Diego-based Navy SEAL during the trial as the ringleader in the conspiracy. They accused Bickle of bringing machine guns and other weapons into the country from Iraq for his own profit. Aguirre was not called to testify.

The investigation began in June 2010 when an informant told authorities that Aguirre was involved in arms trafficking. About two months later, after an undercover detective bought machine guns from Aguirre, investigators confronted Aguirre and persuaded him to cooperate in the investigation.

Aguirre and two other men later accepted plea bargains and admitted selling weapons for Bickle, the only military member charged in the case.

The other two defendants, Andrew Kaufman of Las Vegas and Richard Paul of Colorado, have pleaded guilty and are to be sentenced on Jan. 6. Paul testified at the trial against Bickle, his longtime friend.

Prosecutors said more than 70 firearms, including about 30 machine guns, were sold in the conspiracy. Evidence established that Bickle set the prices for those firearms and received most of the profits from the sales, prosecutors said.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

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