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Weapon used in Mexico gunfight linked to Operation Fast and Furious

December 19, 2012|By Richard A. Serrano
  • Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. has been at the center of the political firestorm over Operation Fast and Furious.
Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. has been at the center of the political firestorm… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)

Two of the weapons involved in a drug cartel gunfight last month in Sinaloa, Mexico, that killed five people, including two soldiers and a young beauty queen, have been traced back to the U.S. – one lost during the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, the other originally purchased by a supervisory ATF agent who helped oversee the botched gun-tracking operation.

The discovery of the two firearms – an AK-47 assault rifle and a 5.7 mm. pistol – provides new evidence that the nearly 2,000 weapons lost under Fast and Furious, and others, continue to flow freely across the U.S.-Mexico border and probably will be turning up at violent crime scenes for years to come.

The purchase by the supervisory agent, George Gillett of ATF's Phoenix field office, is now under review by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s Office, which earlier this year found major systemic problems with both ATF agents and supervisors for Fast and Furious, sources said.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Gillett declined to discuss why he purchased the FN Herstal pistol in January 2010 or how it ended up in the fatal shooting in Mexico. When he bought the pistol, he gave his address as the Phoenix ATF field office.

“I’ve got no comment. I can’t discuss it,” he said. “But it was a lawful transaction.”

The other weapon, a Romanian AK-47-type WASR-10 rifle, was purchased in March 2010 in Phoenix by Uriel Patino. It was one of more than 700 firearms he obtained illegally under the eyes of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in their attempts to track weapons to the Mexican cartels. Patino is being prosecuted in Arizona in connection with illegal gun purchases.

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richard.serrano@latimes.com

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