Note: interesting the free flow in information from pre 2009. Also
shows a fatally flawed agency at work. Fatal for a lot of innocent
people as well.
In '07 operation, it pressed informant to get firearms south, beyond
Files: ATF knew gun sales were a problem
Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2011
12:00 am | Comments
Tucson ATF agents knew their informant was selling guns intended for
criminals in Mexico, and they realized it was problematic, yet they
pushed him to make the guns move south.
Those details emerge from a 594-page journal kept by the paid
informant, Tucson firearms dealer Mike Detty, and emails between
Detty, Justice Department lawyers and ATF agents. The Star reviewed
the documents relating to Operation Wide Receiver last week, but
about half the journal's pages were blacked out by officials.
A comment made by an ATF agent April 3, 2007 - and written down by
Detty in his journal - made clear the fix the agents were in. As
Detty discussed a future gun purchase by a man buying weapons for
mafias in Mexico, one agent said:
"We're getting a lot of heat so this will probably be his last
purchase. We just can't keep letting these guns go to Mexico with
impunity," Detty quoted the agent as saying.
The operation lasted for much of the rest of 2007, but the idea
resumed in a more widespread way when Operation Fast and Furious
began in Phoenix in November 2009. Fast and Furious came to public
attention after U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered
near Rio Rico Dec. 14, and two of the guns at the scene were
discovered to have been sold as part of the ATF operation.
In an interview, Detty said he was told at the beginning of his work
as a paid informant that ATF agents were working with Mexican
officials who could track or seize the weapons he sold. That turned
out not to be true, Detty said - and that may have delayed the
prosecution of the nine people eventually charged.
Detty wrote in a Sept. 22 email to the current Justice Department
prosecutor, Washington D.C.-based Laura Gwinn: "I spoke with the
first AUSA (federal prosecutor) that was on Wide Receiver. He told me
the reason he chose not to prosecute it was because ATF lied to him
and said the guns were being followed/interdicted on the other side
of the border. This is also what they had told me."
Detty, who writes about guns for magazines as well as selling them,
said he wrote the journal entries within a couple of days of when the
meetings with buyers occurred, often in the living room of his Tucson-
area home. In his journal, Detty repeatedly urged the buyers - young
Tucson men with connections in Caborca, Sonora, Tijuana or Sinaloa -
to move the guns across the border fast.
"The best way for all of us to stay out of trouble is for these guns
to go to Mexico as quickly as possible," Detty told a buyer on April
11, 2007, his journal shows. "Once they're in Mexico, it's no longer
a problem for me, but if they stay here a week or longer and somebody
finds them, then it comes back to me because of the serial numbers on
In an interview Friday, Detty said he pushed the buyers to move the
guns south fast at the request of his ATF handlers, who otherwise had
to conduct labor-intensive surveillance.
"The sooner they (smugglers) got them loaded and got them to Mexico,
the less time they (agents) would have to spend on their stakeouts,"
Detty said Friday.
Justice Department officials did not respond to an email sent late
Friday requesting comment.
Only once in the journal, which Detty says he kept so that he could
write a book later, did he note that guns were seized from the
criminal groups he sold them to. But in that case, the seizure was by
U.S. Customs officials, not Mexican agents. Indeed, Detty now
acknowledges, if Mexican officials started seizing loads of guns he
sold, that would have hurt the investigation too.
"If the guns were seized, that would be the end of the
investigation," he said. "If they're not seized ... the investigation
is going on."
Detty has strongly criticized ATF for allowing the guns he sold into
Mexico - airing his critiques on CBS News last week - but another
point of friction also arises in the journal and emails: money.
Gwinn said in an email that Detty was paid $17,400 for his work as an
informant in three cases. This year, the emails show, Detty became
increasingly angry that ATF put him off when he asked for "rewards"
sometimes given at the end of a case.
Gwinn told agents in Tucson that they should delay him until his
cases were through the courts. Detty didn't like that and declined to
do any more work for the prosecution, saying in an angry May 22
email, "I'd be happy to give that (informant pay) money back if you'd
just leave me alone. Would you take $16,000 to have cartel (low-
lifes) in your living room?"
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/article_15b75d99-19d0-5cf6-