The consequences of the non-interdiction polices the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employed in attempting to track down gunrunners between the U.S. and Mexico, as part of the controversial Operation: Fast & Furious, have been well documented by congressional investigators.
For example, Congressional investigators believe that several of the guns trafficked into Mexico were linked to the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Moreover, the Joint Staff Report about the botched operation gave figures as to the number of guns purchased and the number of guns still unaccounted for, it stated, “According to the Justice Department’s July 22, 2011 response to Questions for the Record posed by Senator Grassley, Fast and Furious suspects purchased 1,418 weapons after becoming known to the ATF.
Of those weapons, 1,048 remain unaccounted for, since the Department’s response indicates that the guns have not yet been recovered and traced.”
Ureil Patino, a prolific 25-year old straw-buyer, is responsible for a large percentage of those guns purchased. Authorities estimate that he purchased upwards of 720 firearms before federal agents apprehended him this past January. Of those 720 firearms he purchased, at least 157 ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
According to prosecutors, Patino bought 72 AK-47s in one 12-day period. And, perhaps what’s most frustrating, he continued to purchase these weapons under the auspices of the ATF.
In fact when he walked into the Lone Wolf of Trading Company in Glendale, Arizona, last August and ordered a suspiciously large quantity of firearms (only four of the guns Patino was looking for were in stock), the dealers immediately alerted the ATF, who they had been fully cooperating with.
In an email, the ATF Supervisor David Voth replied to the store manager’s alert, “Our guidance is that we would like you to go through with Mr. Patino’s request and order the additional firearms.”
Apparently the ATF was hoping that Patino would lead them to bigger fish within the drug cartel community. But their lack of surveillance and poor coordination with other departments and Mexican police (who were, it turns out, almost completely unaware of this non-interdiction/low surveillance strategy) created the perfect snag-free pipeline for gunrunners.
ATF Agent John Dodson told House investigators that he and fellow agents were ordered to forgo surveillance of suspicious gun purchases, “knowing all the while that just days after these purchases, the guns that we saw these individuals buy would begin turning up at crime scenes in the United States and Mexico.”
In his official testimony Dodson added, “ATF is supposed to be the sheepdog that protects against the wolves that prey on our southern border, but rather than meet the wolf head-on, we sharpened its teeth and added number to its claws. All the while, we sat idly by watching, tracking and noting as it became a more efficient killer.”
As for Patino, he is out on bail awaiting his trail. He faces 22 weapons-related charges including, dealing firearms without a license, false statements, and money laundering.