Vega had previously pleaded not guilty to taking part in the conspiracy, in which he and his co-defendants allegedly purchased about 200 firearms — 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 — from Chaparral Guns in Chaparral and smuggled them to members of the Juárez-based La Linea cartel between January 2010 and March 2011.
In raids, law enforcement seized 40 of the AK-47 type pistols, more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition and 30 high-capacity magazines before they crossed the border, and found another 12 firearms in Mexico that were traced back to the defendants. Three others were found on three dead individuals in an SUV in Juárez, and others were found at a narcotics bust there, according to federal prosecutors.
Six of the smuggled weapons - three AK-47-type pistols and three pistols nicknamed "cop killers" — were purchased around Jan. 9, 2010, by straw purchasers in Arizona, according to court documents, leading to accusations from defense attorney C.J. McElhinney that the Columbus smuggling case was connected to Operation Fast and Furious. The undercover operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed thousands of guns to cross into Mexico so that agents could see where in the drug cartels they would eventually end up.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Texas on has neither confirmed nor denied whether the weapons in Gutierrez's case were connected with the controversial sting, but said Thursday they were researching the matter.
Friday, August 26, 2011
"Researching the matter." Right.
Border-town police chief Angelo Vega finally cops to gun smuggling conspiracy.