In September of 2011, in the midst of unfolding revelations about Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking,” agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Phoenix Field Division confronted an unlicensed “dealer”/collector hobbyist about “29 firearms traces associated with him [with] 20 of the traces related to seizures in Mexico.” The encounter is documented in a Report of Investigation provided to Gun Rights Examiner by a confidential source, posted at the above link.
It was further noted in the report that the subject of the investigation, Scott Arnberger, had a year earlier been visited by “male and female agents from the Department of Homeland Security [who] came to his house to discuss a firearm he originally had purchased that was recovered in Mexico.”
The Phoenix Field Division is the office from which Fast and Furious operations were conducted. More specifically, the ROI bears the authorization of Group VII Supervisor David Voth. Also listed on the form, but noticeably not signing it, was then-Special Agent in Charge Thomas E. Brandon, now Deputy Director reporting to newly-confirmed and sworn permanent head B. Todd Jones.
Voth was the same official who advised a cooperating Fast and Furious gun shop "I understand that the frequency with which some individuals under investigation by our office have been purchasing firearms from your business has caused concerns for you ... However, if it helps put you at ease we (ATF) are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques which I cannot go into [in] detail."
Voth infamously told subordinates involved in the operation “If you are going to make an omelet, you need to scramble some eggs,” and invited dissatisfied agents to find another job serving lunch to inmates. He also is the official who cited “an increased sense of urgency” after “ATF personnel in Mexico reportedly noted the increased violence and contacted ATF Headquarters to express concern over the Operation Fast and Furious strategy of allowing the weapons sales to proceed.”
Voth was the supervisor who signed a letter instructing a dealer to complete a cash firearms transaction without Form 4473 paperwork, characterized by Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars as “startling proof that the Federal government did not merely 'lose track' of weapons purchased by 'straw buyers' under surveillance by the ATF and destined for the Mexican drug cartels. In an undercover operation ordered by Fast and Furious supervisor David Voth, the U.S. government purchased firearms with taxpayer money from licensed firearms dealers, instructed them to conduct the sales 'off the books,' and used an ATF agent, [whistleblower] John Dodson, to deliver them directly to people that Dodson believed were conducting them across the border."
Voth is named as one of the defendant in the conspiracy and cover-up lawsuit filed by the parents of murdered ICE agent Jaime Zapata. He was a central figure portrayed as a victim in Katherine Eban’s since-debunked Fortune piece, and he’s someone who has yet to offer a compelling explanation for why a key suspect, who was stopped at the border with hidden ammunition in his vehicle, was let go.
Curiously, but in keeping with the new ATF Director’s stated position of treating Fast and Furious matters as personnel issues (with no one, including in Congress, the least bit interested in opening up the ITAR can of worms and looking at criminal charges for an operation in which hundreds of human beings are estimated to have been killed), Voth was conveniently transferred to HQ.
Also curiously, the only repercussion imposed on Arnberger was a warning letter telling him what he was doing was a violation of law, that if he kept it up there would be criminal penalties, and that if he wanted to continue dealing in firearms, he would need to first obtain a Federal Firearms License. Not that this column is calling for the hammer to come down on him, but compare his treatment for consistency to the case of active collector John Shipley, who sold a gun to a deputy that later ended up in Mexico, and who was subsequently convicted and incarcerated on illegal gun dealing charges. Compare it to that of Hugh Crumpler or the Reese family. Look at Arnberger's outcome to that of the pending Valdes case in Florida.
And finally, of utmost curiosity, ask yourself why there have been no follow-up reports on one Alfred de la Torres. That’s the person the ROI says Arnberger “sold approximately 60 firearms to … from approximately early 2006 to early 2008.
“Arnberger stated that after he was told of a Mexican recovery by the agents from DHS he was upset [and] stated he had a conversation with de la Torres regarding the firearm and his frustration with de la Torres,” the ROI states. “Arnberger said after the conversation with de la Torres he never heard from de la Torres again.”
Has anyone? A follow-up report identified two rifles sold to Oscar de la Torre (note the first name has changed, as has the spelling of the last) that were recovered in Mexico. How did they get there? That report says “Arnberger believed that many of the traced firerarms … that were recovered in Mexico were sold to Oscar de la Torre.” Has there been any follow-up on the other guns Arnberger sold him, and any resolution on how 20 of the guns ended up south of the border, with nine others traced to domestic crimes?
With the full acknowledgment that Arthur/Oscar de la Torre(s) should be presumed an innocent collector unfortunately caught up in circumstances beyond his control, don’t count on any “Authorized Journalists / legitimate news media / real reporters” to seek out any answers, or even acknowledge that anyone outside their exclusive circuit is asking questions. Likewise, don’t count on ATF to admit to a thing -- unless there’s a chance for self-promoting headlines, questions are generally met with an “ongoing criminal investigation” deferral.
That leaves one last logical place where a public inquiry could and should be conducted, but Mr. Issa hasn’t shown much interest in following up on things of late, and the Republican leadership hardly seems inclined to encourage him to do so, for reasons we can only speculate.
Click here to see the ROI that many outside of this limited niche readership ought to be using as a springboard for investigations of their own. Unfortunately, the only way that will happen is if that document and this analysis are shared. By you.
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