USA Today reports that one man, Uriel Patino, 25, of Phoenix, accounted for a third of the 2,000 guns bought as part of the ATF’s controversial gun-trafficking investigation, known as Operation Fast and Furious. The ATF, eager for the suspect to lead them to a bigger fish in the rich trafficking ring, allowed him to continue buying guns in bulk, despite concerns raised by the local gun store where he made some of his purchases.
Patino was allowed to continue his buys even though agents knew that guns he allegedly purchased had been showing up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States. Before he was arrested in January, congressional investigators estimate that he purchased at least 720 firearms, 157 of which fell into the hands of Mexican drug cartel enforcers or other criminals on both sides of the border. Federal court records of Patino’s alleged buying sprees provide an unusual view into an operation that several ATF whistle-blowers said shredded the agency’s investigative rules and may have cost the life of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.