- - Monday, November 26, 2012

PHOENIX — Two men were sentenced Monday for their roles in a gun-smuggling ring that was part of the U.S. government’s botched Operation Fast and Furious, an investigation that unraveled after illegally purchased weapons turned up at the scene of a Border Patrol agent’s fatal shooting.

Jacob Anthony Montelongo was sentenced in federal court in Phoenix to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and dealing guns without a license. Sean Christopher Steward received a nine-year sentence for conspiracy and making false statements to authorities.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Steward and Montelongo were among so-called “straw buyers” who illegally purchased weapons for traffickers and Mexican drug cartels in a wide-ranging Phoenix-based gun-trafficking ring.

In Operation Fast and Furious, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used a controversial tactic called gun-walking, where instead of intercepting all weapons thought to be purchased illegally almost immediately, they wanted to track the guns back to high-level arms traffickers who had long eluded prosecution, in an effort to dismantle their networks.

But federal agents lost track of many of the guns purchased at Arizona shops before they ended up in Mexico, where many of them have been recovered at crime scenes. The operation ultimately identified more than 2,000 illicitly purchased weapons, and some 1,400 of them have yet to be found.


TransUnion: Late auto-loan 
payments rose in 3rd quarter

LOS ANGELES — More Americans fell behind on their auto-loan payments in the third quarter, when back-to-school shopping and other needs traditionally put a strain on consumers’ wallets.

But the uptick is likely only a seasonal blip in an otherwise multiyear decline in auto-loan delinquencies, reporting agency TransUnion said Tuesday.

The rate of U.S. auto-loan payments at least 60 days overdue rose to 0.38 percent from 0.33 percent in the second quarter, the company said.

That represents only a slight uptick from the second quarter, which marked the lowest delinquency rate on TransUnion’s records going back to 1999.

The July-to-September delinquency rate also was down 19 percent from the 0.47 percent rate a year earlier, the firm said.

FBI: Reward helped find fugitive murder suspect

LOS ANGELES — A murder suspect on the FBI’s most-wanted list gained weight and switched identities to evade authorities for 14 years, but his notoriety and a $100,000 reward finally led to his capture, the agency said Monday.

Jose Luis Saenz was arrested in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Thursday on suspicion of four killings and remained jailed in Southern California, the FBI said.

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