On Monday, two straw buyers who purchased guns for a known Mexican drug cartel pleaded guilty in federal court to gun trafficking-related charges.
These are the first convictions in the federal government’s severely flawed gunwalking program, Operation Fast and Furious.
The two defendants, Jacob Wayne Chambers and Jacob Anthony Montelongo each pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge. Montelongo also pleaded guilty to selling firearms without a license, according the Associated Press.
The two men were accomplished gun smugglers and admitted to being part of a larger smuggling ring that is connected to the Sinaloa drug cartel.
From Sept. 2009 to Dec. 2009, Chambers purchased 79 firearms from three licensed dealers (FFLs) in Arizona. Chambers got paid $50 for each AK-47 and $100 for a .50-caliber rifle.
And from Jan. 2010 to July 2010, Montelongo bought 109 guns from eight FFLs also located in Arizona. He was paid $50 for each pistol, $100 for each rifle and $150 for six .50-caliber rifles.
Both men face up to five years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. They will be sentenced on May 21.
This duos involvement in Operation Fast and Furious raises many questions. For example, how long did the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives know about them? Could the ATF have put a stop to their trafficking at an earlier date? Were the FFLs
involved forced to sell them weapons?
On the whole, we know that the ATF was trying to use these lower-level smugglers as a means of tracking down kingpins and ringleaders.
This strategy may have proved effective if the ATF had a real means of keeping track of the smuggled weapons once they were sold off to the cartels, but as the congressional investigations pointed out, the ATF just let the guns walk.
The results of this maligned strategy were catastrophic. The ATF lost track of approximately 1,400 weapons. And two of those weapons were found at the scene of a December 2010 shootout near Rio Rico, AZ; the place where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed.
Authorities determined that the guns sold by Chambers and Montelongo were not the ones that were found at Agent Terry’s crime scene.
Federal agents have apprehended other alleged gun smugglers who were monitored under Fast and Furious. They have not pleaded guilty to any of the pending charges against them. Their trial is set for Sept. 25.
However, it should be pointed out that no drug kingpins or ringleaders were arrested as a result of the operation.
While its good to know that the smugglers and the gunrunners are being held accountable for their part in this botched operation, there are those within our own government who need to be prosecuted for allowing those smugglers and gunrunners to operate freely for so long.