CBS News has learned that the DEA has confiscated a stash of assault rifles connected to ATF's Fast and Furious operation. It's a major seizure of weapons in the controversial ATF case that's the subject of at least two investigations. Sources say it's believed the suspects intended to take the guns to Mexico.
Sources say DEA accidentally came upon the guns while stopping suspects in an unrelated case in the Phoenix area on April 13th. When agents stopped at least two suspects, they found two giant garbage cans full of dozens of AK-47 type weapons wrapped in cellophane. Sources tell CBS News that a trace on the first weapon showed it was purchased in Nov. 2009 by a suspect in ATF's Fast and Furious case.
Insiders allege that ATF allowed more than 2,500 weapons purchased by suspects to "walk," or hit the streets. The current seizure underscores the fact that most of those weapons are still on the street and unaccounted for.
At least two suspects were arrested in the April 13 DEA gun bust. Since then, sources say ATF and DEA have been in a tug of war over who should hold the weapons. The DEA is said to want to keep the weapons (and its own case) separate from ATF controversy. Today, the Dept. of Justice, which oversees DEA and ATF, provided no immediate comment or information.
Court documents indicate ATF Fast and Furious suspects purchased at least 52 AK-47's in November of 2009 (see chart below), and bought hundreds more weapons between Sept. 2009 and Dec. 2010. It's unknown how many times the weapons have changed hands between the time they were purchased, and last month's DEA seizure.
Sources indicate the owner of the Lone Wolf Trading Company and other gun shops were cooperating with ATF by repeatedly selling weapons to suspects. Some ATF agents and gun shop owners involved objected to the controversial strategy; worried that the "walked" guns would be used to kill innocent people. Supporters hoped it would eventually help ATF gain intelligence to take down a Mexican cartel.
ATF quickly rounded up Fast and Furious suspects after two guns they allegedly let "walk" showed up at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.
Alleged Nov. 2009 purchases by suspects from the Lone Wolf Trading Company in ATF Fast and Furious case (source: U.S. District Court of Arizona Indictment Jan. 19, 2011)
Nov. 3: Suspect Joshua David Moore purchased 2 AK-47 type rifles
Nov. 10: Suspect Moore purchased 5 AK-47 type rifles
Nov. 12: Suspect Moore purchased 3 AK-47 type rifles and suspect Alfredo Celis purchased 10 AK-47 type rifles
Nov. 17: Jose Angel Polanco purchased 1 AK-47 type rifle and other weapons
Nov. 24: Suspect Jaime Avila purchased firearms and Suspect Uriel Patino purchased 5 AK-47 type rifles
Nov. 25: Suspect Dejan Hercegovac acquired 26 AK-47 type rifles, and delivered them to suspect Manueal Fabian Celis-Acosta, and an auto shop in Phoenix