Monday, April 23, 2012



Ex-ATF agent: Ammo load should have been stopped
By Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera \ EL PASO TIMES
Posted: 04/23/2012 12:00:00 AM MDT

In light of Tuesday's arrest in Juárez of a U.S. trucker with 268,000
rounds of ammunition, a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives questioned the current safeguards
at the U.S. side of the border to prevent similar contraband moving
Jabin Akeem Bogan, 27, was detained Tuesday afternoon by Mexican
federal customs officers at the Bridge of the Americas with the
cargo. His employer and others have come out in his defense, saying
the ammunitions were actually headed to Phoenix and that Bogan ended
up in Mexico by accident.
Regardless of Bogan's intentions, René Jáquez, former assistant
country attaché in Juárez with the ATF, said that U.S. customs
officers should have intercepted the cargo.
"In my opinion, the real question to ask is how is it that our
customs agents with all heightened security were able to miss this
type of shipment going into Mexico? How was it that this truck was
able to get into Mexico with all those ammo?" he said.
And if the cargo was indeed legitimate, Jáquez said, U.S. customs
officers should have been able to see the ammunitions, check the
paperwork and steer the driver in the right direction.
"If they would have opened the door they would have seen the
ammunition," he said.
Roger Maier, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said
his agency's primary focus is on inspecting what's coming into the
country. Nevertheless, southbound inspections have stepped up since
secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano ordered it in her
visit to El Paso in March of 2009, he said.
"Although CBP focuses on arriving travelers and trade as a means of
securing our country and economy, we also engage in outbound
enforcement when resources permit, focusing on currency, weapons,
export violations and fugitives," Maier said in a statement.
Early in 2009, shortly after her nomination as secretary of Homeland
Security, Napolitano promised the Obama administration would crack
down on firearm smuggling into Mexico.
CBP implemented measures such as expanding its southbound license-
plate reader program and investing in non-intrusive inspection
equipment. The initiatives have resulted in increased confiscations
of guns, ammunitions and currency, Maier said.
But Mexican officials think it hasn't been enough. In February,
Mexican President Felipe Calderón unveiled a large banner made out of
confiscated weapons on the Bridge of the Americas -- where Bogan was
detained Tuesday -- that read "No More Weapons." With loudspeakers
and addressing border commuters and El Pasoans within earshot,
Calderón called on U.S. citizens for help in stopping the flow of
weapons into Mexico.
Before his address, Calderón attended a ceremony where 6,000 weapons
were destroyed, a sampling of the more than 63,641 handguns, 44,332
rifles, machine guns and other weapons, and 10.9 million cartridges
seized from criminal organizations since the beginning of Calderón's
Tuesday's seizure was one of the largest made by Mexican authorities
in Juárez in the last four years of violence.
On Thursday, Bogan was flown into Mexico City by personnel of the
organized crime special investigation unit of Mexico's General
Attorney's office, or PGR. Despite being required by law to determine
whether they will continue with an investigation after 48 hours from
detaining someone have passed, Mexican authorities have not yet
announced their decision.
Other questions also remain regarding Bogan's intent when crossing
into Mexico with the ammunition.
According to Dennis Mekenye, owner of Arlington-based Demco
Transportation Inc. and Bogan's employer, Bogan was transporting
legal cargo heading to a Phoenix ammunition shop, United Nations
Ammunition Company.
Bogan made a stop in El Paso and, before driving the last stretch
toward Phoenix, he accidentally took a wrong turn toward the
international bridge. Mekenye said Bogan was told by a nearby officer
that the only way to turn around was going into Mexico and returning.
Mekenye didn't specify if the officer was American or Mexican, but
CBP's Maier said U.S. customs officers "would never direct anyone to
Mexico if that wasn't their intent."
Although it's not common for commercial tractor-trailers to try to
return, Maier said CBP personnel have helped some truckers turn
around through the narrow return passage at the Córdova-Americas bridge.
"We've had to stop traffic so they can cut across and head back
north," he said. "It's a tight turn, but we've been able to assist
Mexican customs administrator in Juárez Juan Ramón Huerta León
declined to comment whether Mexican officials instructed Bogan to
enter Mexico to do a U-turn, saying it was part of the PGR's
investigation. However, he said "it's not a logical situation. How
are you going to enter a country to do a maneuver like that?"
Huerta also added Mexican customs officials initially approached
Bogan's trailer-truck after he performed "a strange maneuver" while
on the trailer-truck's lane into Mexico.
It also remains unclear what type of ammunitions Bogan was
transporting. Mexican authorities initially reported the rounds of
ammunition were calibers 7.62x39 and 5.56x45, which are commonly used
with AK-47 and AR-15 rifles. They are often used by members of
Mexican criminal organizations.

But the owner of United Nations Ammunition, who identified himself
only as "Howie," said his order was made up of 250,000 7.62x51-
caliber rounds and 18,000 5.56-caliber rounds.
While the 5.56 rounds are typically used with AR-15 rifles, 7.62x51
rounds are used with M14 ceremonial rifles, sniper rifles and some
machine guns. Howie saidÊthey could be used with hunting rifles and
some assault weapons, but "they would not work with an AK-47."
Howie said he ordered $100,000 worth of ammunitions from Widener's
Reloading and Shooting Supply Inc., in Johnson City, Tenn. He said he
had requested a large order due to a shortage following recent large
military orders.
"I wish I could getÊfiveÊtimes more than that," he said.

Widener's did not return calls seeking comment, but its website
states, "We can only ship inside the USA, we do not export."
Tom Crowley, spokesman for ATF in Dallas, said they have reviewed
both United Nations Ammo and Widener's and "there have been no
apparent issues with either of those companies" and they "haven't
come across anything suspicious as of this time."
"We're still looking into the entire thing. It's really too early to
say anything conclusively and we're still looking at it in Mexico,"
he said.

If investigations conclude that Rogan indeed went into Mexico by
accident, Crowley noted, it wouldn't be the first time something
similar happened in the El Paso-Juárez area.
In April 2008, Spc. Richard Raymond Medina Torres, of Fort Hood,
mistakenly drove into Mexico with several personal weapons. He was
released after Mexican authorities determined he did not break any
antigun laws.

Many El Pasoans agreed driving into Mexico by accident was an easy
mistake to make.
Mark Moore, 63, said he found himself once about to go southbound on
the Stanton Street Bridge.
"There's no way to turn back unless you break the law," he said.
Bernadine McNeel, 86, said she had accidentally ended up in Mexico
once or twice.
"I think it's really easy, especially if you're on Paisano Drive,"
she said.
Antonio Esparza, 81, thought new ramps near the international bridges
would be a good public works project to consider.
"Why doesn't the city build a runaway ramp leading away from Juárez?"
he said. "It would be expensive but not as expensive as having to
fight the Mexican laws."

Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera may be reached at; 546-6129; on Twitter @AlejandroEPT.¼

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