Fast and Furious gun dealer released from prison

  • Article by: RICHARD A. SERRANO , McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Updated: December 16, 2013 - 9:27 PM

He says ATF told him to keep selling arms to smugglers.


FILE - This undated photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry. Terry was killed in a 2010 firefight near the Arizona-Mexico border between U.S. agents and five men who had sneaked into the country to rob marijuana smugglers. On Monday Nov. 18, 2013 a judge dismissed federal employees from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of the slain Border Patrol agent over the botched "Fast and Furious" gun operation. (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection, File)

– The firearms dealer caught up in the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious scandal has won an early release from prison after a federal judge ruled that prosecutors overcharged him in alleging he sold high-powered weapons to smugglers working for a violent drug cartel in Mexico.

Ian Garland, who ran a gun shop near El Paso, Texas, was released Friday after a court hearing in Las Cruces, N.M., showed that he was given a longer sentence because the court was misinformed that some of the weapons he sold were fully automatic machine guns, rather than rifles and pistols. He had served half of his five-year sentence. On Monday, Garland began serving a three-year probation.

In interviews, Garland said he plans to talk to the Mexican consulate in El Paso about how at least one of his firearms, a Draco semi-automatic pistol, was apparently used in a killing on the Mexican side of the border across from the town of Columbus, N.M. He said U.S. federal agents knew that weapon, and likely the other 192 he sold, were being smuggled into Mexico to arm a drug cartel.

Mexican government officials, Garland said, “want to know if I was told to keep selling the firearms. They want to know how long I was notified by the ATF and whether they were doing nothing about stopping the sales.” Garland said agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives encouraged him to keep selling the weapons to a group of city officials in Columbus who were under investigation for smuggling the rifles and pistols to the cartels.

“I was told to keep selling. They went on and on about that,” Garland said.

Agents in El Paso and New Mexico declined to discuss the matter.

Under Fast and Furious, launched out of the bureau’s Phoenix field office, which covers Arizona and New Mexico, agents allowed the illegal sale of some 200 firearms with the aim of tracking the guns to Mexican gang leaders. Almost all of the weapons made it into the cartel arsenals in Mexico. Many have been recovered at crime scenes there, and two were found after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in southern Arizona.

“My God, I won and got out,” Garland said. “I didn’t think I would win, but I did.”

But Garland said the scandal and his prison experience have cost him his marriage and home. He said that he believes if agents had followed through and shut down Fast and Furious at the Phoenix field office, “Brian Terry would still be alive.”

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