The former police chief of a small New Mexico border town has pleaded guilty to federal charges in a firearms trafficking investigation.

Prosecutors say 40-year-old Angelo Vega appeared Thursday before a federal magistrate in Las Cruces in a change of plea hearing. Vega was among a group of Columbus officials accused of helping to smuggle hundreds of guns into Mexico.

The town's former mayor, a former town trustee and nearly a dozen other people already have pleaded guilty in the case.

Prosecutors say Vega faces up to a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to felony conspiracy charge. A sentencing date hasn't been set.

Columbus is just north of Palomas, Mexico, which has seen increasing violence as drug cartels wage war against one another, the Mexican Army and police.