Four wanted in Mexico border killing named
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Authorities made a rare disclosure Monday linked to the botched gun-smuggling investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious, revealing identities and requesting the public's help in capturing four fugitives accused in the shooting death 18 months ago of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
The announcement follows pressure from Republicans who led a House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, criticizing the nation's top prosecutor for withholding information related to the probe.
"We believe it's in the best interest of this ongoing investigation to unseal the case at this point in time and to enlist the assistance of the general publics in both Mexico and the United States," said federal prosecutor Laura Duffy. She said the decision to release the information came independently, and she would not discuss the congressional action against Holder.
Operation Fast and Furious was launched in 2009 to catch trafficking kingpins, but federal agents lost track of about 1,400 of more than 2,000 weapons, including AK-47s and other high-powered assault rifles.
Some of the guns purchased illegally with the government's knowledge were found later at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States.
Critics have hammered federal authorities for allowing informants to walk away from Phoenix-area gun shops with weapons, rather than immediately arresting suspects and seizing firearms.
Since the fatal shootout near the U.S.-Mexico line in December 2010, deep flaws in the government's weapons trafficking case have come to light. Federal authorities have repeatedly declined to disclose information related to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
The release of the suspects' identities in an indictment newly unsealed Monday came with the offer of a $1-million reward for information leading to their capture.
The FBI says it is seeking information related to Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, 31, Ivan Soto-Barraza, 34, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, 34, and Lionel Portillo-Meza. Portillo-Meza's age and birthplace were unavailable. The other three were born in Mexico.
Authorities had previously released the identity of the fifth suspect, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, of El Fuerte in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. He was shot during the gunfight and has been in custody since the night of the shooting.
All five have been charged with murder and face charges of assaulting federal agents.