The Main Stream

Aug 7, 2014 11:55 PM by Lupita Murillo and Michel Marizco

N4T Investigators: Indicted ringleader of crew that killed Border Patrol agent had previous immigration violations

TUCSON, ARIZ. – A seventh man was charged with the shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Rosario Rafael Burboa Alvarez pleaded not guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tucson to charges of first and second degree murder and conspiracy.

According to the indictment filed Wednesday, a grand jury in Tucson accuses Burboa, 30, of recruiting the six men initially charged in Terry's death.

Burboa was already in custody since October 2012 on immigration-related charges when he was charged with Terry's killing. According to charges in a separate federal court case, Burboa was arrested on immigration charges after Border Patrol agents surveilling a ripoff crew encountered him.

He was in the U.S. illegally after he'd been arrested in 2008 in Maricopa County with possession of marijuana with intent to sell. He was sentenced to three years and deported in April 2009.

Terry was part of an elite crew of Border Patrol agents called the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, or BORTAC. In December 2010, the BORTAC team was patrolling an area outside of Nogales, Ariz., called Mesquite Seep, hunting for ripoff crews that assault and rob immigrants and smugglers. According to a FBI warrant filed in June 2012, the team interrupted the ripoff crew and arrested one of its members, Rito Osorio Arellanes.

Two nights later, the remaining members of the crew returned to the area. The agents surprised them. The ripoff crew was armed with rifles. Two of those rifles originated from a Phoenix gunstore and were part of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms operation called Fast and Furious. The much-criticized operation was supposed to track where weapons turned up at crime scenes but ATF agents had lost track of hundreds of guns. Two AK-47 variants from that operation were found at Terry's murder scene but a FBI ballistics report failed to link the weapons to the rounds that killed the Border Patrol agent.

Operation Fast and Furious led to the resignation of then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke and the reassignment of William Newell, ATF's special agent in charge of the Phoenix office. Attorney General Eric Holder was held in civil contempt of Congress in 2012 after Pres. Obama declared certain details of the operation exempt from release under executive authority.

Terry's cousin, Robert Heyer, spoke with the News 4 Tucson Investigators' Lupita Murillo, Thursday.

"This is great news, the Terry family is very pleased and thankful to the FBI and prosecutors who continue to prosecute this case very aggressively," Heyer said.

Only one man was captured the night of Terry's killing, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison in early 2014. His brother, Rito Osorio, was sentenced to eight years for conspiracy in January 2013.

Lionel Portillo Meza was captured in Mexico and extradited to the U.S. last June.

Ivan Soto Barraza was also captured in Mexico and extradited last July. Jesus Rosario Favela Astorga and Heraclio Osorio Arellanes remain fugitives. All hailed from the Mexican state of Sinaloa with roots, and some with previous criminal records, in Phoenix.

Ben Aguilera, who is representing Burboa, said he does not yet know whether the United States will attempt to draw a connection between Fast and Furious and his client.

Fast and Furious has never been mentioned in any of the court paperwork filed in the various defendant's criminal cases.

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