Suspect in 'Fast & Furious' slaying of
border agent extradited to U.S
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[June 19, 2014]
By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A suspected drug
cartel figure accused of killing U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in
a case tied to the government's ill-fated "Fast and Furious" gun-running
sting was extradited from Mexico to Arizona to face murder charges,
federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Lionel Portillo-Meza was returned to the United States on Tuesday
and pleaded not guilty in federal court on Wednesday in Tucson,
Arizona, where he was ordered detained without bond, the prosecutors
He is accused of being one of five cartel gunmen who confronted
Terry and three other Border Patrol agents on Dec. 14, 2010, in a
shootout that left Terry dead in a rural area north of Nogales,
Two weapons discovered at the murder scene were later tied to the
bungled gun-running operation of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that embarrassed the Obama
administration and strained relations with Mexico.
The botched sting operation, which ran from late 2009 to early 2011,
was envisioned as a way to track weapons purchased by straw buyers
with clean records in the Phoenix area to senior drug cartel members
In most cases, however, ATF agents failed to follow the guns beyond
the initial buyers. And a number of firearms purchased in the
operation were recovered from crime scenes in Mexico.
In 2012, Terry's parents filed a $25 million wrongful death claim
against federal prosecutors and ATF agents alleging that they acted
in violation of their own policies and that the so-called "Fast and
Furious" sting negligently allowed weapons to be bought by violent
Terry's brother, Kent, told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday the
family was happy that suspects in the case were being brought to
"It won't bring Brian back to us, and (his death) could have been
prevented," Kent Terry said. "They still have 2,00 weapons out there
that they can't account for."
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The U.S. Justice Department offered a $1 million reward in July 2012
for information leading to the arrest of Portillo-Meza and three
other fugitives accused of the shooting at the time.
Portillo-Meza was captured in Mexico two months later, and a second
suspect was arrested the following year later but remains in Mexico.
Two others remain at large.
A fifth gunman captured after being wounded in the shootout was
sentenced earlier this year to 30 years in federal prison.
A sixth defendant who was in custody at the time of Terry's slaying
pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with the case and
was sentenced to eight years in federal prison in January 2013,
(Reporting by Marty Graham; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by
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