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N.M. Chief Who Smuggled Guns Into Mexico Had Checkered Past

March 11, 2011  | 

The checkered past of the New Mexico police chief arrested Thursday and accused with conspiring to take part in a gun-smuggling operation includes a grand-jury indictment for extortion, witness intimidation and a false-imprisonment misdemeanor, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

Columbus Police Chief Angelo Vega has been indicted by the federal government for gun running between January 2010 and March.

During this 14-month period, Vega, 40, and other defendants allegedly purchased approximately 200 firearms from Chaparral Guns in Chaparral, N.M. The firearms dealer's owner, Ian Garland, has also been indicted. According to a federal affidavit obtained by POLICE Magazine, the defendants purchased firearms favored by the Mexican drug cartels, including AK-type pistols, weapons resembling AK-47 rifles with shorter barrels and no rear stocks, and American Tactical 9mm pistols.

The defendants allegedly acted as "straw" purchasers when obtaining the firearms by falsely claiming they were the actual purchasers, when in fact they were buying the weapons on behalf of others, acccording to the affidavit.

During the investigation, law enforcement officers seized 40 AK-type pistols, 1,580 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, and 30 high-capacity magazines from the defendants before they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The indictment alleges that 12 firearms previously purchased by the defendants were recovered in Mexico and traced back to the defendants.

"Three of the 11 members of this conspiracy are government officials who violated the public trust by using their positions to facilitate and engage in illegal arms trafficking," according to Special Agent Joseph M. Arabit of the Drug Enforcement Administration's El Paso Division.

If convicted, Vega could receive five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

The arrest of Vega on Thursday by a joint task force is the chief's latest brush with the wrong side of the legal system, as detailed by the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Here's an excerpt:

Vega began his career in law enforcement as a deputy with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, where, in 1996, he was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of extortion, a third-degree felony, and two counts of intimidation of a witness, a fourth-degree felony. The charges stemmed from a 1995 incident in Lincoln County when Vega allegedly threatened a woman who had been wrongfully arrested a day earlier, telling her that she would be prosecuted unless she agreed to work as an undercover narcotics officer and sign a written apology in which she agreed that her arrest was appropriate.

Read the full story at


N.M. Chief Arrested In Federal Border Raid

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