An ATF official in Phoenix may have bought a firearm used in the gun-walking Operation Fast and Furious that has now been recovered after a deadly gunfight in Sinaloa, Mexico, according to new documents made public by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
George Gillett, ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Phoenix, was listed on three Arizona firearm purchase forms, from Dec 2009 to January 2010. One of the pistols he purchased was recovered recently in Mexico after a drug cartel gunfight last month left five dead, including Sinaloa beauty queen Maria Susana Flores Gamez. Another firearm, an AK-47 assault rifle, was discovered and later linked to Fast and Furious straw buyer Uriel Patino, Grassley wrote.
Grassley requested that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz review whether Gillett did indeed purchase the firearms and if his conduct was legal. Grassley contends that Gillett listed bogus addresses on some of the gun forms, which would be a felony offense.
Gillett was faulted by the Inspector General in a lengthy report earlier this year for his role in the botched gun-walking investigation. The IG found Gillett’s “supervision and judgment in Fast and Furious seriously deficient.”
The firearm operation, headed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, aimed to track about 2,000 guns as they were smuggled over the border into Mexico. The agents tracked the guns as they were sold to straw buyers who then smuggled them over the border and often into the hands of drug cartel members.
ATF agents hoped to take out high-level cartel members with the data they collected while tracking the guns. The operation backfired, however, when hundreds of guns went missing. Two guns were later found at the scene of a shootout between U.S. Border Patrol Agents and Mexican cartel members. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed.
Gillett told the LA Times that he had no comment on today’s letter from Grassley. “I can’t discuss it,” he said, “but it was a lawful transaction.”
In a separate letter Monday, Grassley wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder about the shooting in Sinaloa. He demanded to know why Congress had not been notified that a gun from the operation had been found at the scene of a shoot out, citing the slaying in Sinaloa last month.