Big border region gun bust raises questions
By Dave Workman
Federal indictments against more than 30 Arizona residents in connection with alleged gun running to Mexico have some Internet gun rights activists raising questions.
The Justice Department announced charges in late January against 34 people who allegedly purchased an estimated 700 firearms in Arizona, including semi-automatic rifles and pistols, and some .50-caliber long-range rifles.
Court papers obtained by Gun Week name several defendants and allege that they were variously involved in illegal gun transactions, falsification of information on federal firearms forms, money laundering, conspiracy to obtain firearms for drug trafficking and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. The documents allege that the gun buying was spread across the state, involved purchases at several different stores and gun shops dating back to at least September 2009.
The January arrests of 17 people reportedly broke up the gun and drug smuggling ring. The operation involved agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Phoenix Police Department.
There are both men and women among the suspects in the 53-count indictment.
Court documents identified scores of guns that were involved in the scheme. Many of those guns were involved in multiple firearm transactions.
But the high profile arrests were preceded by allegations that undercover federal agents have actually been involved in gun smuggling efforts in which ATF officials “intentionally arranged to have hundreds of firearms ‘walked’ across the US border into Mexico.”
Jeff Knox, author of the Knox Report on World Net Daily, initially characterized the allegations as rumors. However, two other prominent gun rights advocates, Mike Vanderboegh, who operates the SipseyStreetIrregulars blog, and National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea have also weighed in, primarily using another Internet website, CleanUpATF.org as a primary source of information.
That website was set up by “a group of (ATF) employees who formed a non-profit organization dedicated to returning integrity, accountability and decency to the management of the (agency),” according to one of Codrea’s Examiner columns.
January’s arrests tended to reinforce contentions by the Obama administration that thousands of US-origin firearms are fueling the drug cartel wars in Mexico.
In one of the court documents, a 43-page indictment naming 20 of the defendants, one gun shop was prominently identified as the source of scores of firearms purchased by various suspects between March and July 2010. Among the purchases were dozens of AK-47-type rifles, three Barrett .50-caliber rifles and 19 FN Herstal 5.7mm semi-automatic pistols. Two of the suspects, identified as Uriel Patino and Sean Christopher Steward, were involved in more than one of these transactions. Patino was associated with five of the transactions.
The indictments clearly state that the defendants “knowingly made false statements and representations” when filling out federal firearms forms required for the completion of the transactions. The documents further allege that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to traffic in the firearms, both in the United States and in Mexico.
According to published reports, the gun transactions were primarily designed to provide firearms to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in Mexico.
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