Thursday, April 5, 2012



Man accused in botched gun probe to change plea
Apr. 5, 2012 06:05 AM
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- A man accused of buying two rifles found at the scene of
the fatal shooting of a federal agent near the Arizona-Mexico border
is scheduled to change his plea Thursday in the federal government's
botched gun smuggling investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Jaime Avila Jr. faces charges of dealing guns without a license and
making false statements in firearms purchases as an alleged member of
a 20-person smuggling ring that's accused of buying guns and
smuggling them into Mexico for use by the Sinaloa drug cartel. Avila
had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Authorities say two AK-47 variants bought by Avila from a suburban
Phoenix gun store were found in the aftermath of a December 2010
shootout that mortally wounded Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry near
Nogales, Ariz.

Federal authorities have faced harsh criticism since Terry's shooting
for allowing suspected straw gun buyers to walk away from gun shops
with weapons, rather than arrest the suspects and seize the guns there.

Terry was killed in a shootout with bandits in a canyon north of
Nogales. The shooting broke out as Terry and three other agents tried
to catch five suspected illegal immigrants believed to be bandits who
rob illegal immigrants as they cross into the United States.

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes of El Fuerte, Mexico, was shot during the
gunfight and is charged with second-degree murder in Terry's death.
Osorio-Arellanes isn't charged with being a member of the alleged gun
smuggling ring.

Avila, who hasn't been charged in Terry's death, is accused in the
gun smuggling case of claiming to buy six AK-47 variants and one .50-
caliber rifle for himself when he was actually making the purchases
on behalf of the ring.

Mexico's drug cartels often seek out guns in America because gun laws
in Mexico are more restrictive than in the United States.

The goal of the U.S. government's gun smuggling investigation was to
catch weapons-trafficking kingpins, but firearms agents lost track of
many weapons they were trying to trace to smuggling ringleaders, and
some guns ended up at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S.

The investigation is the focus of an inquiry by congressional

Several agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives have said they were ordered by superiors to let suspected
straw buyers walk away from Phoenix-area gun shops with AK-47s and
other weapons believed headed for Mexican drug cartels, rather than
arrest the buyers and seize the guns there.

The federal agency lost track of some 1,400 of the more than 2,000
weapons whose purchases attracted the suspicion of the Fast and
Furious investigators.

Trial for the remaining alleged members of the gun smuggling ring is
set for Sept. 25. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges against

So far, two members of the ring have pleaded guilty, and a total of
three alleged ring members were expected to change their pleas

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