"Major Strasser has been shot! . . . Round up the usual suspects."
Indictments released in arrest of Columbus police chief, mayor and trustee in firearms trafficking case.
LAS CRUCES - United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced today that a federal grand jury in New Mexico has indicted eleven members of a firearms trafficking ring headquartered in Columbus, a small border village across from the Mexican city of Palomas, on firearms and smuggling charges.
The defendants charged in the 84-count indictment include Angelo Vega, the Columbus chief of police; Eddie Espinoza, the mayor of Columbus; and Blas Gutierrez, a village trustee in Columbus.
Ten of the eleven defendants were arrested without incident this morning by teams of federal, state and local law enforcement officers, and will make their initial appearances tomorrow in the federal courthouse in Las Cruces. Defendant Ignacio Villalobos has not been apprehended and is considered a fugitive. The officers also executed ten search warrants at eight residences, one business establishment, and at the office of the Columbus Police Department.
The indictment is the result of an intensive year-long investigation initiated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), that later expanded to include the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney's Las Cruces Branch Office. The investigation has been designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those responsible for the nation's illegal drug supply.
The indictment alleges that, between January 2010 and March 2011, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to purchase firearms for illegal export to Mexico. During this 14-month period, the defendants allegedly purchased approximately 200 firearms from Chaparral Guns in Chaparral, New Mexico, which is owned and operated by defendant Ian Garland. According to the indictment, the defendants purchased firearms favored by the Mexican Cartels, including AK-47-type pistols, weapons resembling AK-47 rifles but with shorter barrels and without rear stocks, and American Tactical 9 mm caliber pistols. The defendants allegedly obtained firearms from Chaparral Guns by falsely claiming they were the actual purchasers of the firearms, when in fact they were acting as "straw purchaser" who were buying the firearms on behalf of others.
During the investigation, law enforcement officers seized 40 AK-47 type pistols, 1,580 rounds of 7.62 ammunition, and 30 high-capacity magazines from the defendants before they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The indictment alleges that twelve firearms previously purchased by the defendants later were found in Mexico and were traced back to these defendants. As part of the investigation, every effort was made to seize firearms from defendants to prevent them from entering into Mexico, and no weapons were knowingly permitted to cross the border.
In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, "Gutierrez, Espinoza and Vega were duty sworn to protect and safeguard the people of Columbus, New Mexico. Instead, they increased the risk of harm that the people of Columbus face every day by allegedly using their official positions to facilitate and safeguard the operations of a smuggling ring that was exporting firearms to Mexico. Today's indictment reflects our unwavering resolve to ensure safety along our Southwest border and to expose and prosecute corrupt officials who seek to profit at expense of the citizenry they are sworn to protect."
"This investigation, along with the countless others that ATF and HSI have pursued jointly over the past several years, provides further proof that the trafficking of firearms to Mexico continues to be a significant problem" said William Newell, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Phoenix Field Division. "The good news is that all the agencies involved in this investigation were fully committed to joining forces to stop this activity and the results speak for themselves."
"The results speak for themselves," sez "Gunwalker Bill" Newell as he rounds up some more folks he's been patiently watch smuggle guns into Mexico for the past year.
"The results speak for themselves."
Well, that's a ten out of ten on the hypocrisy scale of the No-Shit-O-Meter. Just ask the ghost of Brian Terry. I'd like to know: how DOES this slimy sonofabitch sleep at night?
Link to indictments.