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Reuters: U.S. border town mayor arrested on gun running charges

March 10, 2011- The mayor and police chief of a small town on the U.S.-Mexico border were among 11 suspects indicted for allegedly trafficking around 200 guns to Mexico, authorities said on Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney's office in New Mexico said the mayor of Columbus, Eddie Espinoza, the town's police chief Angelo Vega, and village trustee Blas Gutierrez were among those arrested on an 84-count indictment.

"Gutierrez, Espinoza and Vega were duty sworn to protect and safeguard the people of Columbus," U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said in a statement.

"Instead, they increased the risk of harm that the people of Columbus face ... by allegedly using their ... positions to facilitate and safeguard the operations of a smuggling ring that was exporting firearms to Mexico," he added.

Columbus is a small town just north of the border from Palomas, in Mexico's northern state of Chihuahua, where more than 4,400 people were killed by drug cartels last year.

The bust followed a year-long investigation led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, together with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Drug Enforcement Administration agencies.

The indictment alleges that between January 2010 and March 2011, the defendants conspired to buy around 200 firearms for illegal export to Mexico.



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