An Ecuadoran man who helped smuggle 46 boxes of gun parts from Minneapolis to Paraguay was sentenced Monday in St. Paul to two years in federal prison and faces almost certain deportation upon his release.

Fabian Lojano-Lojano, speaking through an interpreter, apologized for his actions and told U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle that he didn't know what he was doing when he shipped AK-47 gun parts to Paraguay without obtaining a proper license.

"I made the mistake and I never found out what type of weapons they were," Lojano-Lojano said. "My family has suffered for all of this. My family here, and also in Ecuador."

As anxious family members looked on, his attorney, Ignatius Udeani, said Lojano-Lojano only agreed to ship the gun parts because he felt threatened by another man in the operation, Edgar Fretes, of Paraguay.

Fretes appears to be associated with a Paraguayan security and business intelligence-gathering firm called Delta Protective Services, according to court records. The firm's website described it as a subsidiary of a Minnesota corporation of the same name, though that firm has been out of business for some time.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Johnson said Lojano-Lojano's actions belied his claim of ignorance. He noted that Lojano-Lojano had made 46 shipments, mislabeled the package contents and used an alias and phony address on some shipments.

Johnson said that Lojano-Lojano, an illegal immigrant, had been ordered deported at a hearing on March 6, 2010, but his removal stalled after he appealed. His illegal gun shipments took place while his appeal was pending, Johnson said. He asked for a sentence within the federal guidelines range of 46 to 57 months in prison.

But the judge took sympathy on Lojano-Lojano, 30.

"This is a sad case in many ways," Kyle said. "His family members, including his young son, are the ones who bear the brunt of this."

All but one of the shipments took place after the government had been alerted to the activity, Kyle said. While not excusing Lojano-Lojano's actions, he noted that there would have been less criminal conduct -- fewer arms shipments -- if the government had intervened sooner.

Court records indicate that the shipments were intercepted by investigators in Miami, however, and did not make it out of the country.

Kyle said that other than this one serious crime, the defendant had a clean record and has done everything one would hope an immigrant would do by working hard, getting an education and supporting his family. Now, with a felony conviction, Lojano-Lojano faces almost certain deportation upon his release. Kyle said in this case, two years in prison is enough to serve the purposes of justice: deterrence, reasonable punishment and rehabilitation. With credit for time served while awaiting sentencing, that means Lojano-Lojano will spend about 15 months in prison before he's likely to be deported, Kyle said.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493