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Tag: ATF

ATF Operation Focused on Man Who Bought More than 700 Guns

atf file photo

By Kevin Johnson
USA TODAY

When Uriel Patino walked into a Glendale, Ariz., gun store last August and placed an order for 20 handguns, federal gun agents already knew the 25-year-old man as the most prolific figure in a trafficking ring that was supplying hundreds of guns to Mexico’s brutal Sinoloa drug cartel, according to federal court documents and congressional investigators.

In the prior 10 months, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced 673 area gun purchases to the Phoenix resident, congressional investigators found.

Now, Patino was back for more. And the ATF, eager for the young suspect to lead them to a bigger fish in the rich trafficking ring, was more than happy to oblige, despite concerns raised by the local gun store. Alarmed by the size of Patino’s August request, the dealer, who was cooperating with federal investigators, asked the ATF whether a special order for the weapons should be placed because there were only four in stock.

“Our guidance is that we would like you to go through with Mr. Patino’s request and order the additional firearms,” ATF Supervisor David Voth wrote the dealer in an Aug. 25 e-mail.

To read the full story click here.

Ex-ATF Agent Testifies in Tulsa About His Corrupt Ways

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former ATF agent, who is awaiting sentencing on corruption charges, testified Thursday in a federal corruption trial that he stole drugs and money from crime scenes with several Tulsa police officers, the Tulsa World reported.

Brandon McFadden, 34, testified as a government witness about his criminal activity along with Officers Jeff Henderson, Officers Frank Khalil and Sean Larkin, the Tulsa World reported. He also testified that Henderson made up information to obtain search warrants.

McFadden was arrested in April 2010 and started working with federal investigators, he testified, the paper reported. He pleaded guilty to drug distribution and is awaiting sentencing.

“I knew what I had done and been involved with, with the Tulsa Police Department, and knew the investigation was bigger than Brandon McFadden,” he testified, according to the paper.

“The indictment saved my life. I could sit back and tell my story and be openly blunt about it and tell the citizens of Tulsa. I’ve made mistakes in Tulsa, and I take full responsibility.”

To read more click here.

ATF Dir. Ken Melson Getting Out and Talking to the Troops

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ken Melson, the acting director of ATF, who seemed like a goner last month, is now acting as if he might be around for a while.

In fact, Melson is making an effort to show more leadership by communicating more with the troops. Last week, he conducted a town hall meeting at headquarters to discuss the state of ATF with employees, according to several law enforcement people familiar with the situation.

And since then, he’s been conducting meetings with groups of special agents in charge, who head up ATF offices around the country.

One person familiar with the meetings said the townhall meeting at headquarters dealt primarily with ATF’s budget and other agency matters.  But at least one person asked Melson about Operation Fast and Furious, the controversial operation that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell weapons to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

ATF lost track of a lot of those weapons, some of which surfaced at crime scenes. That triggered a major controversy for ATF, perhaps the biggest since Waco.

In meeting with SACs in recent days, Melson has tried to assure the officials that Fast and Furious was a Phoenix Division issue and was not a systemic problem within ATF,  according to one person.

However, the ATF officials in the field told Melson that the Fast and Furious issue went far beyond the Phoenix Division — at least when it came to harming morale inside the agency.

Many SACs were also angry about the recent Congressional testimony of William Newell, who headed the Phoenix office during the Fast and Furious Operation. They felt his testimony was less than forthright.

Melson indicated that no punitive action would be taken against  anyone at ATF until the Office of Inspector General issues a report on the matter.

Rumors had circulated that Melson, who complained about being the Justice Department scapegoat in the Fast and Furious mess, might be replaced in early July by Andrew Traver, head of the Chicago ATF, who has been nominated by the White House to become the permanent director.

But that never happened, possibly because it would have looked bad if  Melson was replaced just as he was starting to speak up about the mess to Congressional investigators.

Melson had complained to Congressional investigators that he was being muzzled by the Justice Department and kept from communicating to the troops about the Fast and Furious controversy.

According to his testimony provided to investigators and released by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Melson said:

“Part of the problem, and one of the things that infuriated me was that I have not been allowed to communicate to the troops about anything. So, for example, earlier on, I wanted to do a broadcast that just talked about the case because everybody was wondering what’s this case about? What are you doing at headquarters?

“How come you were not issuing press releases and how come you were not ordering press conference ad pushing back and things like that? And I was told not do do that. Then after we wanted to do several things to talk to our people about what this case was about, what it wasn’t about, and you know, where were were going and the fact that we were cooperating as much as we could with the committee and with the Department, but we were restrained from doing that.”

ATF Ups Game in APP World

Screen shot of ATF APP

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

ATF is upping its game in the technology world.

The agency announced Wednesday the release of Apps for Android and Windows Phone 7 devices, and an updated application for Apple iPhone and iPod touch devices.

“With the latest release of the iOS ATF app, developed in cooperation with NIC Inc., users will have the added ability to access information regarding firearms types and nomenclature,” a press release said.

“Android and Windows Phone 7 users will be able to learn about ATF history and areas of expertise, find their local ATF field office and sign up for e-mail updates on the latest ATF-related news.”

“ATF is committed to making its mobile presence one that proves both educational to the general public and useful to our industry and law enforcement partners,” said Scot Thomasson, chief of ATF Public Affairs Division. “The iOS update along with the Android and Windows Phone 7 versions are important steps toward that goal.”

NRA Files Suit to Block ATF from Monitoring Gun Sales Along Mexico Border

atf file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklthewire.com

The National Rifle Association, which is feared and revered by many on Capitol Hill — and loathed by others — is flexing its muscle in its never ending battle with ATF.

The latest: The New York Times reports that the NRA on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging a federal regulation that requires gun dealers in states  along the Mexican border to report sales of two or more semiautomatic rifles within five days that can use ammunition larger than .22 caliber.

The NRA claims that Obama administration exceeded its power when it implemented the regulation last month without Congressional approval. It asks a judge to block ATF from enforcing the regulation.

“N.R.A. has always viewed this as a blatant attempt by the Obama administration to pursue their gun control agenda through back-door rule-making, and the N.R.A. will fight them every step of the way,” said Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the gun rights group, according to the Times.

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. vowed to “vigorously oppose” the N.R.A. challenge, the Times reported.

“We think that the action we have taken is consistent with the law,” Holder told reporters on Wednesday, “and that the measures that we are proposing are appropriate ones to stop the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico.”

FBI Report at Odds With ATF Claims About Border Agent’s Murder

Brian Terry

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

More controversy surrounding ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting a discrepancy between what ATF and the FBI have said about the guns that were sold under the operation, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to middlemen or “straw purchasers”, with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

The Times reports that ATF’s top spokesman had said that no guns from the operation were used in the murder last December of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Two guns had been found at the scene, but not linked to the actual shooting, officials had said in the past.

But a copy of the FBI report on the FBI ballistics did not rule out a link with the Fast and Furious guns, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Times reported that the FBI records show that on Dec. 23, just days after the shooting, the FBI’s “Report of Examination” said the fatal bullet came from a semiautomatic rifle, but that “due to a lack of sufficient agreement in the individual microscopic marks of value” on the weapons, “it could not be determined” which gun fired it.

The Times, citing an unnamed source, said the bullet that killed Terry was badly damaged “and that’s why the FBI only got a partial match to the weapons. It was just too badly fragmented.”

Some have also tried to link guns from the operation to the murder in Mexico of ICE agent Jamie Zapata.

But a source recently told ticklethewire.com that there was no link established in that shooting.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Former ATF Official in Mexico Apologizes to Mexico for Fast and Furious

Darren Gil/cbs file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Darren Gil, the former attache for ATF in Mexico City, apologized Tuesday to his Mexican counterparts for Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF program that encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, with the hopes of tracing the guns to Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of many of the guns, some which have showed up at crime scenes.

“As former head of ATF in Mexico, I would like to apologize to my former Mexican law enforcement counterparts and the people of Mexico for Fast and Furious, ” Gil testified Tuesday before a hearing on the operation before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Washington.

“I hope they understand it was kept secret from me and my colleagues and unfortunately the results of this operation is that the Mexican people will continue to suffer the consequences of narco related firearms violence.

“To put it bluntly, it’s inconceivable in my mind and in the mind of any competent agent to allow firearms to disappear at all. Further more, it’s even more inconceivable that a  competent agent would allow firearms to cross (an) international border, knowing that they were designated for the worst of the worst criminals in the western hemisphere.”

Gil was the first of several witnesses to testify Tuesday morning.

Witnesses also offered condolences to the family of Brian Terry, the Arizona U.S. Border Patrol Agent who was killed last December. Two guns from the Fast and Furious Operation were found at the scene.

Committee members expressed frustration and near disgust at the testimony of  William Newell, the former head of the Arizona, ATF, who admitted the operation had flaws, but the agency did not “walk guns.” Newell continually said he should have conducted more “risk assessment” when conducting the operation to better pinpoint problems.

He said he would do several things differently if he did it again.

Rep. Darrell Issa said that Newell was entitled to his opinions, but not the facts.

Carlos Canino, ATF Acting Attaché to Mexico, expressed his disgust about the investigation and spoke of the hurt he felt when ATF agents told him they were embarrassed to carry an ATF badge after publicity surfaced about Fast and Furious.

ATF Was Evasive About Weapons Found at Murder Scene of Border Agent Brian Terry

Sen. Grassley/official photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

ATF earlier this year tried to play down the fact that guns from its highly problematic Operation Fast and Furious program surfaced at the scene of the slaying of Arizona Border Patrol agent Brian Terry last December, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The paper reported that the top ATF supervisors in Phoenix conceded in an email two days after the slaying that the weapons found at the scene were linked to the operation that encouraged gun dealers to sell to middlemen or straw purchasers, with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

Brian Terry

But the Times reported that nearly two months later Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) inquired whether the weapons purchased during the Fast and Furious operation, were used in the killing, only to get an evasive answer from ATF officials in Washington.

The Justice Department said “these allegations are not true”, according to the Times and failed to acknowledge that the guns were there.

The Times, citing unnamed ATF officials, said the agency drew a distinction because the FBI determined that neither of the two AK-47s in question were used in the murder.

Meanwhile, Grassley had been trying to link the Fast and Furious guns to the murder of ICE agent Jamie Zapata earlier this year in Mexico.

But a source tells ticklethewire.com that authorities found no link to Fast and Furious in that matter.

To read more click here.