Former Mongols hope Fast and Furious probe will shed light on ATF practices
July 2nd 2012 · 6 Comments
A former member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club wants to help a San Diego Congressman and the family of a slain Border Patrol agent in a fight for information from the ATF in the Fast and Furious probe.
Al Cavazos of West Covina said he believes his own fight with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over what he calls false evidence presented in federal court parallels the plight of the Kent and Josephine Terry.
“I’ve sent a letter to the Terry family explaining my issues with the ATF,” Cavazos said. “My situation ain’t as bad as theirs – she lost a son – but we have to do something to stop the government from lying.”
The Terrys’ son Brian, a Border Patrol agent, was shot and killed in December 2010 by members of a suspected Mexican drug cartel. The gun that killed him was supplied to the cartel through an ATF program known as “Fast and Furious.”
The Terry family has filed a $25 million wrongful death suit against the federal government. The suit claims the ATF sent more 1,400 guns to Mexico, where they fell into the hands of criminal gang members. The Terrys allege the Justice Department covered up the ATF’s role in the gun-running program.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday held Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to provide documents on how the Justice Department came to the realization that federal agents in Arizona had used a controversial investigative tactic known as gun-walking. A separate vote Thursday on civil contempt passed 258-95. It will allow the House to go to court in an effort to force Holder to turn over the documents.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-San Diego, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been investigating Operation Fast and Furious for the past year and a half.
Cavazos, 58, said he would like to compare notes with Issa and maybe get the congressman to take a look at his case.
In 2008, Cavazos and 77 other members of the Mongols were arrested, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to varying federal prison terms after entering guilty pleas in an action the feds called “Operation Black Rain.”
The 100-page indictment alleges Mongols engaged in drug dealing, extortion, assault and attempted murder.
Both Al and his brother Rueben, a former Mongols president, say the racketeering indictment relied on false testimony from Montebello police Sgt. Chris Cervantes and his partner, ATF agent John Ciccone.
The brothers claim Ciccone and Cervantes, working for the ATF, lied about a shooting they witnessed in the parking lot of Nicola’s – a Commerce topless bar – in April 2007.
The shooting and its aftermath played a large role in the ATF’s case against members of the group.
Authorities with the ATF and the Montebello Police Department dispute Cavazos’ claims and point to guilty pleas by Al and Rueben as proof. David Santillan, current president of the Mongols, says both brothers are “out bad” and no longer affiliated with the club.
Al Cavazos said his complaints to the Montebello Police Department and members of the Montebello City Council have fallen on deaf ears.
So in April, he filed a formal complaint with the Justice Department.
Al Cavazos said he has received no response.
In an email from the federal penitentiary where he is being held, Ruben Cavazos said he is being punished for speaking out against the ATF’s tactics.
In order to get him to cooperate with the ATF, Ruben says authorities placed him in the general population of the La Tuna Correctional Facility and hinted to other prisoners that he’s a snitch.
“The government is hoping that I would ask for safety in return for – if not cooperation – at least my silence when it comes to my criticism/exposure of the ATF’s corruption,” he said. “I would rather die than lie for the ATF.”
Al Cavazos said he hopes the recent publicity surrounding Operation Fast and Furious and the Congressional contempt citation of Holder will change the way his case is viewed.
“Up until all of this I was thinking, who do you go to?” he said. “Maybe that’s all going to change now.”
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