Archive for July 2012
After the government rested its case, several motions and lengthy arguments followed. There were also some deadlines for additional documents to be filed over the weekend.
The Jury was not present for these, so they will not be printed here at this time.
They were educational to the peanut gallery and at some point Judge Brack will rule on the motions.
The government recalled Eddie Pacheco the Lead Case Agent in charge of the investigation against the Reese family.
S/A Pacheco was asked if his office had reviewed the phone records of Penny Torres, the straw purchaser, and New Deal. Pacheco stated he had, and a series of dates, times, length of call and number dialed and from where were recited into the record. The calls were short (ranging from 5 seconds, to 1 min, 7 seconds).
Pacheco was asked about border crossings, queries of license plate numbers of vehicles and databases searched for vehicles, and trying to figure out who crossed the board. Agent Pacheco explained the search covers all ports of entry.
Pacheco testified Roman came into the country with 3 different vehicles, a 1998 Lincoln, a late model Chevy pickup, and an early 2000 era GMC pickup between Jan 2009 and Jan 2011.
Pacheco agreed with the prosecutor that were times when there were no border crossings, gaps between late Jan to May 2010.
He stated Roman also had other vehicles, a late model Dodge Durango, a late model Lincoln Navigator SUV, and he doesn’t know why he didn’t run those vehicle tag numbers through the system.
Defense objected to the prosecutor asking leading questions.
For the most part, Pacheco stated Roman crossed back into the US on a monthly basis.
Mr. Gorence cross examined Pacheco, and pointed out the defense had just gotten this discovery information Wed or Thrs of last week.
He asked if any other way to make queries. Pacheco stated yes they can, however, he believes the queries were done on screen and not printed. Last week on the witness stand, Pacheco indicated that the defendants can’t get that information, however, Pacheco stated this time he doesn’t know if the defendant can request the information.
Mr. Gorence indicated that last week Pacheco stated the printout indicated every time Roman crossed the border back into the US. Pacheco disagreed with this and stated, the computer logs every time the vehicle crosses the border, not his person.
When asked if there was another way to determine border crossings he asked if he failed to do that. Pacheco stated that when pedestrians come across the border they don’t always swipe the (passport or driver’s license or other ID) that they just wave them through.
Shocked, Mr. Gorence pointed out that after 9/11 regulations were passed the government doesn’t have any discretion about this.
Pacheco stated it may be just an alien card or a driver’s license and that it is up to the inspector on whether or not to swipe the card.
Mr. Gorence pointed out that Immigration is a part of DHS, and did Pacheco know the rules sufficiently. Pacheco stated he did not know them.
When Gorence asked if you could enter with just a drivers license still, Pacheco stated he doesn’t know.
The Government rested their case at this point, last Friday.
Paul Haggerty, Senior Special Agent with US Department of Justice BATFE, works in strategic intelligence. He has 37 years of law enforcement under his belt, in various agencies including 3-4 years in strategic intelligence. He has trained many persons, from Judges & Prosecutors, to Mexican Officials, from the Attorney General on down and back up to the US Ambassador. He is a court certified expert in weapons in Mexico.
Mr. Haggerty explain a lot of things about Mexican Cartels.
Mexico doesn’t have Posse Comitatus.
Haggerty has contacts with the Mexican government daily.
“Our” (I’m not sure who the “our” was referring to) expertise is mostly on firearms and explosives. If there is a major shootout they respond to the scene. They get backlogged so since 2008 he has had to up the threshold of the number of persons killed or firearms on the scene before they get involved.
He has worked undercover, understands firearms trafficking and has insight as to arms traffickers He has infiltrated the cartel and knows their business practices. This has provided him with intel and insight.
In response to a question, he chuckled, and stated he has trained many, including the Supreme Court and the Attorney General, police academy, DHS Customs & Border Patrol, other agencies, and 300-400 “en Mejico” including cabinet ministers.
He is published and written training manuals for law enforcement.
The government tendered his resume as an expert in the field of ATF operations, including paragraphs 1-14 in the indictment, specifically drugs cartels and ATF regulations, firearms trafficking and export license.
Haggerty testified he is familiar with Mexican cartels and worked as an undercover capacity, had meals with them, socialized with them, did business with them to determine conspiracy and methods used. He stated they have murdered 100s of civilians, and continue to do this now.
When one is arrested, another takes over the role. He has developed knowledge of the drug cartels.
He stated the cartels are a true multi-billion dollar business, with money laundering, stolen cars, smuggling, murder, counterfeiting. Overall the Cartel structure is a business enterprise. It is a business enterprise structured for power via intimidation and violence for profits.
He explained the drug trade is very profitable. (NOTE: It sounded like he stated, “I’m supplying the guns, he supplying the drugs.” Transcripts need to be checked for accuracy.) He has a good relationship. They have good quality cocaine, and when sold in San Diego the price doubles, and if further north price can quadruple. He stated the cartel’s security force has been paid $6.5 million.
He explained there is a large volume of marijuana trade, and the larger the volume the more profitable. He described pick up trucks with false compartments to load guns are returned to Mexico, and then Marijuana returns to the US.
He described how the excess cash profits generated in the US from drug sales are used to purchase weapons, ammo, and other tangibles which are smuggled or taken back to Mexico.
He explained how firearms are the exclusive jurisdiction under their Article 83. and the types of offenses for certain weapons. Only the military can use certain types of weapons.
He was asked if he has seen many 50 caliber weapons in Mexco, and he replied unfortuantely many times. The defense objected to the way he answered this question, and the judge agreed.
Mr. Haggerty’s testimony dragged on at length, describing various weapons and ammunition that is prohibited in Mexico, which weapons and ammo are popular with the cartel, and that the cartel desires weapons because they shoot at each over territory wars.
Mr. Haggerty stated the most common source of weapons comes from the US using straw purchasers, however, sometimes they raid police stations in Mexico, or grab guns from decease law enforcement or military. But, he reiterated that most guns are purchased in the US. They use straw purchasers as a method to acquire firearms.
The lawyers all approached the Judge’s bench and after about a five minute conference, Haggerty’s testimony continued.
Haggerty described how firearms being purchased with straw purchasers, at the store the straw purchaser uses their photo ID, claims the purchase is for their personal use, and knows the money will be reimbursed or provided ahead of time for a specific weapon. He explained often the real purchaser doesn’t want to be on a frequent purchaser list, or is a prohibited person in his experience.
The cartel enterprise has different levels. There is a leader, then senior partners that run the organization, then one Lieutenant per territory, or assigned to a special assignment, such as the kidnapping department or the drug department, then below that are the soldiers, which he explained are the assassins, and below them other people – people who are full time partners who build false compartments for smuggling, or acquire firearms. Below them are the grunts.
When asked who would the cartel use as a straw purchaser, he replied there are two groups. Full time cartel members who have that job as a full time assignment, or a temporary person who is given a large or small bonus for buying weapons and bringing them back to the real purchaser.
The government’s expert witness, Mr. Haggerty, was not cross examined by any of the defense attorneys.
General Comment: Those of us in the peanut gallery were wondering why this witness was brought into the trial. He testified about a lot of things going on in Mexico, but it didn’t seem to the peanut gallery that any testimony relating to any evidence in this case against the Reeses was discussed. Although we did learn by accident that Roman would be only one step above a low level grunt according to the hierarchy described. Agent Valles had already testified about straw purchasers and reviewed the guidelines for FFLs.
Bruce Charles Schwindler (sp?), works with the Department of State, and is the Director of Treaty Control (or something close to that).
Mr. Schwindler was not presented as the Government’s Expert. Paul Haggerty from DOJ – BATFE was presented as the expert witness.
Apologies, long days….
This is from the current guide for FFL’s regarding straw purchases and gifts. NOTE: It is not the exact evidence discussed in trial, but should give you an idea of the fine line differences between straw purchaser and gift under current guidelines.
15. STRAW PURCHASES
Questions have arisen concerning the lawfulness of firearms purchases from licensees by persons who use a “straw purchaser” (another person) to acquire the firearms. Specifically, the actual buyer uses the straw purchaser to execute the Form 4473 purporting to show that the straw purchaser is the actual purchaser of the firearm. In some instances, a straw purchaser is used because the actual purchaser is prohibited from acquiring the firearm. That is to say, the actual purchaser is a felon or is within one of the other prohibited categories of persons who may not lawfully acquire firearms or is a resident of a State other than that in which the licensee’s business premises is located.
Because of his or her disability, the person uses a straw purchaser who is not prohibited from purchasing a firearm from the licensee. In other instances, neither the straw purchaser nor the actual purchaser is prohibited from acquiring the firearm.
In both instances, the straw purchaser violates Federal law by making false statements on Form 4473 to the licensee with respect to the identity of the actual purchaser of the firearm, as well as the actual purchaser’s residence address and date of birth. The actual purchaser who utilized the straw purchaser to acquire a firearm has unlawfully aided and abetted or caused the making of the false statements. The licensee selling the firearm under these circumstances also violates Federal law if the licensee is aware of the false statements on the form. It is immaterial that the actual purchaser and the straw purchaser are residents of the State in which the licensee’s business premises is located, are not prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms, and could have lawfully purchased firearms from the licensee.
An example of an illegal straw purchase is as follows: Mr. Smith asks Mr. Jones to purchase a firearm for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith gives Mr. Jones the money for the firearm. If Mr. Jones fills out Form 4473, he violates the law by falsely stating that he is the actual buyer of the firearm. Mr. Smith also violates the law because he has unlawfully aided and abetted or caused the making of false statements on the form.
Where a person purchases a firearm with the intent of making a gift of the firearm to another person, the person making the purchase is indeed the true purchaser. There is no straw purchaser in these instances. In the above example, if Mr. Jones had bought a firearm with his own money to give to Mr. Smith as a birthday present, Mr. Jones could lawfully have completed Form 4473.
The use of gift certificates would also not fall within the category of straw purchases. The person redeeming the gift certificate would be the actual purchaser of the firearm and would be properly reflected as such in the dealer’s records.
OOPS! S/A Valles came back the next morning (Friday 7/29) and continued to testify.
S/A Valles agreed the 2005 edition for the FFRG was the book in force during 2010, and there is a section about the firearms transaction record (4473). The requirements include some guidance on due diligence by the seller, verification of the buyer’s ID, examination of the ID of the buyer, must be legally in the US.
On questioning Valles admitted Reeses reviewed a valid ID (Penny Torres) and even the false indentification (provided by the agents), and examined same.
The book also explains the difference between a straw purchaser, and a purchase that will be gifted to someone else. On page 166, the booklet explained what is a straw purchaser – another person buys for someone else because the actual purchaser is prohibited.
Valles stated the straw purchaser doesn’t have to be a prohibited person.
Mr. Gorence noted Mr. Roman held out he was not a felon, he wasn’t prohibited from purchasing, he hasn’t been adjudicated mentally incompetent and it wasn’t presented that Roman was a prohibited person. Agent Valles replied, the person doesn’t have to be prohibited.
Attorney Gorence stated to read the paragraphs on straw purchaser and gifts, and noted how difficult it is not know if something is a gift or a straw purchase. The person making the gift is the real purchase and signs as such. If Penny Torres purchased with an intent to give weapons to someone in the parking lot as a gift, it would highly subjective. The agent agreed, but stated, not when Roman told Reese he was paying for the weapons.
ATF S/A Valles was questioned again by the prosecutor. He was shows a booklet of the Federal Firearms Reference Guide for FFLs, and called it the Bible for FFLs, since it includes al the laws and regulations on firearms. A series of questions followed which were objected to and sustained. It was a bit confusing, but it seemed the line of questions that could be answered resulted in learning from Valles that the FFRG lists specific requirements for FFLs to follow, the compliance time, and ramnifications of non-compliance, including filling out and voiding a 4473.
Under cross, Defense Attorney Hall stated that Valles had testified that there were no guns were found at Roman’s place when he was arrested. S/A Valles stated he participated in the search warrant and when asked if he knew Roman had two guns, he replied he had two guns, one fully automatic (a machine gun).
The prosecution objected, but the Judge stated there was testimony about this, and allowed the questioning to continue.
S/A Valles testified he was aware there were two guns, and wasn’t sure if one was fully automatic.
When asked if he knew that Penny Torres was asked to hold firearms for Roman at her house, he stated yes.
Attorney Gorence questioned S/A Valles further, started out with confirming that ATF doesn’t give advance notice of compliance inspection, however, asked if Valles knew the normal practice, to which he replied he did. He agreed that compliance officers IOI take all 4473 and A&D into custody.
When asked if there was any reason ATF never called (the compliance officers) to determine if they (not heard), the agent replied that at that point they already had leads to investigate New Deal and wanted to corroborate the information received. At this point ATF Agent Valles started to stutter and finished up stating to corroborate if true.
He agreed investigators are taught to be neutral, non-participatory, and to include all evidence (exculpatory or incriminating), and to gather was evidence they could.
Attorney Gore pressed on, stating the date they were charged was August 30, 2011. You have had 11 months since that. In that 11 months, why didn’t you call these two inspectors. S/A Valles answer either “no reason” or “I don’t know” (heard differently in the peanut gallery….)
Defense Attorney Gorence asked if there was some information available to IOI investigators which would help identify suspicious activity. S/A Valles agreed.
Gorence showed him a purchase receipt dated March 31, 2010 and pointed out Penny Torres, purchased 5 AK47, and from IOI’s perspective a 30 year old female who purchased 5 AKs was not suspicious. Agent Valles stated HE feels it was suspicious, but he couldn’t say what the other investigators thought.
Gorence pointed out that there were two trained investigators there and they didn’t find it suspicious. Valles agreed that is what is noted on the report.
Gorence stated similarly on the other purchases, including one for 10 AK47s by a 30 year old woman, that the investigators didn’t find it suspicious, and Valles indicated they didn’t note it as suspicious. Valles stated by the time they did their inspection, he had already submitted all these firearms [to national computer base]and listed her in NIC.
When Gorence interjected because Terri Reese called Officer Bass, and that Terri started the whole case, the prosecution objected. Gorence continued, stating that Valles has already told the court that Bass’s call to ATF started his case, even though IOI didn’t find anything suspicious. Gorence continued with IOI not finding it suspicious that a 30 y.o. woman purchased 10 AKs, to which Valles responded that to him it was suspicious.
He admitted he never talked to IOI to determine why they didn’t think it was suspicious, and he didn’t ask them.
Valles admitted these guns are not machine guns, they are AK47s.
Valles admitted he participated in each of the 6 or 7 debriefings. When asked to look up the exact number of debriefings, he replied it was exactly 10. They never asked Roman to take a drug test. Valles never asked Roman if he ever used a gun during the back-packer drug trips, or the ultralight drug trips, which carries a higher sentence. In the plea agreement where he was charged with smuggling a minimal amount of marijuana [compared to what he admitted to smuggling in court] Valles admitted a second time that he was never asked about guns.
Under questioning, Valles admitted that background investigations of FFL applicants is not extensive. They have to comply with regulations regarding the business premises, pass a NIC check [NCIC national criminal history background check], no gun control violations, and they can’t be an illegal alien, have a DRO (domestic restraining order), and other similar things.
Gorence questioned Valles more about the 4473, which came about as a result of the assassination attempt on President Reagan. The regulations only go so far as far as an FFL filing out the form. Valles agreed if a private seller goes into the store a sold a weapon to the store, the private seller doesn’t have to fill out a form 4473, however the FFL has to log in the acquisition, and later the disposition of that firearm. Agent Valles was not aware if the Reese’s put their own private guns back into business inventory via the A&D logs when they wanted to sell their own guns.
Gorence pointed out that the Reese’s were completely compliant, and Rick put over 30 of his own personal weapons back into inventory when he wanted to sell their own guns, and that Terri and Ryin, who are not FFLs and don’t have to follow that FFL rule, also put their guns back into inventory when they wanted to sell them. Agent Valles stated he hadn’t looked into the details.
Gorence asked Valles if he was familiar with a lady who purchased 40 AK rifles from New Deal. Valles stated he was, and that after she purchased those weapons he interviewed her. She had purchased those 40 weapons for a military training center used to train various government agents.
Gorence reviewed the multiple handgun sales report involved Penny Torres with S/A Valles and pointed out one copy was provided to Officer Bass. Valles pointed out the report is supposed to be faxed in within 24 hrs, and that during the search warrant he found stacks of multiple handgun reports. Valles agreed that attached to the reports were the method of delivery, and that some were mailed, others faxed, and some not indicated. Valles admitted that if the report in question was mailed, they didn’t receive it until October.
Gorence asked about the July 29, 2011 sting operation and the multiple handguns purchased on that date. Valles pointed out there was an incorrect serial number on the form, however, when asked about the amended report New Deal submitted, he stated he didn’t find one during the search, didn’t look for one, and didn’t see one.
When S/A Valles sent a request for information to Terri on 9/1/11, he indicated Terri responded the same day, but was unsuccessful with the fax machine and mailed the information.
Gorence pointed out on another request for information at 1:51pm, Terri sent the reply fax at 1:58pm, and asked if that revealed that Terri was being very cooperative. S/A Valles admitted she was being very cooperative but protested, “But Penny Torres was not the buyer!”
Gorence objected and asked the Judge to order Valles to answer his question, and to strike his last answer from the record, explaining that S/A Valles opinion has zero weight. The Judge allowed the first part of the response, but struck from the record his comment that Penny Torres was not the buyer.
S/A could not recall calling to make an appointment with Rick the prior Friday and then canceling the appointment. When asked if it was in his notes that he canceled at the last minute, he couldn’t recall.
The prosecutor jumped back in with questions under re-direct for Agent Valles.
After Agent Valles reviewed his case file, Valles stated that a tape of the phone call was in his file, however, he had made a report, not a transcript.
Defense Attorney Brad Hall stood up and announce his office had made the transcript.
Attorney Bowles continued with his cross-examination and asked him again if he recalled that Penny Torres did not want to be arrested. He stated it wasn’t in his report, however, he recalls the conversation, and claimed that if they had wanted to arrest her, they would have already. She wasn’t arrested.
During questioning, it was learned that AK’s and AR’s use different caliber ammunition, however ARs can be converted to shoot AK type ammo and Valles knows they can be converted. There are over 75 million (of what not heard) manufactured every year, and over 100 million knock offs per year (possibly the AKs). S/A Valles didn’t know that.
Valles was asked if Terri hold him about a white truck, and he responded she didn’t say, but Rem saw a truck with AZ plates. They pursued the lead, but never located a truck matching that description.
Valles confirmed that Torres never made an additional purchases after her name was entered into the NIC system.
Defense Attorney Pete Dominici Jr. cross-examined Agent Valles next. He asked if to his knowledge if ATF is responsible for inspections….. The prosecutor objected to the question, however, the Judge ovveruled and allowed the questioning to continue. He testified ATF doesn’t conduct compliance inspections, the other branch, I.O.I. conducts those. When asked if IOI employee scheduled, he stated yes, and possibly someone from IOI would testify. He admitted he had communicated with IOI and he reviewed their records and discussed their inspection results with them.
Valles testified that IOI had conducted an inspection of New Deal from September 8, 2010 thru September 15, 2010. (This was shortly after Terri Reese reported Penny Torres as a potential straw purchaser.) He admitted he had reviewed the inspection report sometime after he first spoke to Terri, but before he interviewed Rick a month later, and after a phone conversation with Penny Torres.
Valles explained that he only reviews these kind of reports if an FFL is under investigation, or if IOI has referred it to ATF for criminal investigation. When asked how often this occurs, he replied, “Seldom.” He testified this is the only FFL he has investigated.
Valles admitted this 09-08-10 thru 09-15-10 was an on-site inspection and that he was aware there were a lot of agents on site, and this occurred in the same time frame as he went to interview Terri. He spoke with the IOI agents much later, and he didn’t ask about the usual business practices at New Deal. He stated there was no reason to because ND was not a target at that time. He stated New Deal became a target after January 27, 2011. At the time the decision was made to target New Deal, Valles reviewed the IOI inspection report and doesn’t recall if he spoke with the OIO investigators.
When asked if he was aware at that inspection there were NO VIOLATIONS he replied he was aware of it.
He was aware that 703 ATF 4473 forms were reviewed during the inspection, including the 4473 forms that Penny Torres had signed.
When Attorney Dominici asked Agent Valles if he was aware that the purpose of the inspection was to look for suspicious or prohibited sales, and the officers sat inside the store for 8 days, that they found NONE, Agent Valles retorted, “That’s their assessment.”
Valles stated he didn’t know the exact procedures IOI uses during their inspections. He stated by the time he reviewed the (results of the inspection) report, they had alreaday moved forward with the decision to continue investigating New Deal. He admitted he could have talked to the IOI agents, but didn’t talk to them at this point.
Valles admitted that yes, people sometimes coming into weapons stores in groups to look to purchase, and he has been in gun stores when groups come in to purchase a gun.
I didn’t hear his answer when he was asked if he understood that a more knowledgeable person typically engages in negotiations with a group of people.
Valles admitted that is is aware that HSI lead case agent is not experienced in ATF regulations or compliance. Valles admitted he is not an expert in business practices.
He admitted he is the most knowledgeable of FFL regulations, but doesn’t have any expertise in FFL business practices.
When asked if he was aware the basis to start the investigation against New Deal was based on two phone calls made by Roman to New Deal, he replied no, and he hadn’t heard the testimony. However, he admitted he was present during those two phone calls, and characterized them as a shot in the dark.
S/A Valles admitted there is nothing improper or illegal about an FFL contacting a person who purchased a weapon. [This was in reference to an allegation that Terri called Penny about the recovered weapon fax; although in other testimony it may be that Terri called Roman about this fax.] S/A Valles however protested that Penny Torres was not the buyer, and that is incorrect.
S/A Valles admitted that the fax on the recovered weapon does not indicate where a weapons is recovered from, and that an FFL would not know where a weapon was recovered.
When asked again, if there was anything improper or illegal about contacting a buyer of a weapon, Agent Valles replied that there is nothing illegal and it is up to the discretion of the FFL. He stated nothing prohibits an FFL from calling a purchaser.
When asked again, he clarified again that there was nothing on the fax that would indicate the weapon was recovered in Mexico.
Defense Attorney Gorence’s cross examination of this agent is in the next post………….
Carlos Valles (sp?), a Special Agent with the BATFE (“ATF”) out of Las Cruces was the lead investigator in the ATF portion of the case, but not the overall case agent for the entire case. (HSI Special Agent Eddie Pacheco was the lead case agent.) S/A Valles has a Bachelors in Criminal Justice and is fluent in Spanish. His duties are to enforce violations of federal firearms laws. S/A Valles explained that ATF is divided into two sections, the criminal enforcement side (the side he works for), and the regulations compliance section. The two sides work together at times.
Carlos Valles explained that in late August 2010, Las Cruces ATF received a call from LCSO Officer Allen Bass, and explained they had been notified of suspicious purchase(s) involving Penny Torres.
S/A Valles requested all 4473 forms. He explained the 4473 forms are the firearms transaction records, which records the purchaser. He stated this is the ultimate key the ATF uses to trace firearms purchasers. Valles explained that there is no national database of firearms, and that ATF is specifically prohibited from maintaining firearms owner transactions (purchases) or disposition records. The ATF relies on FFL’s (Federal Firearms Licensed dealers) to maintain accurate records. FFL’s are licensed to conduct firearm sale.
Valles was asked how ATF get involved in a case if there is no database. Valles explained that at crime scenes, weapons have serial numbers, and ATF can trace the weapon from the manufacturer, to the FFL who purchased it, and then to the first person who purchases it from a FFL. Valles described how law enforcement can submit a request to trace a weapon senrial number, and then monitor the progress of the trace and the trace results. Once the trace is completed, the national trace center contacts the gun dealer (FFL). Since FFL’s maintain proper records, they can determine who the weapon was sold to.
Valles went on to explain the “A&D” logs, which are logs maintained by FFL’s of every weapons purchased (new or used) and the disposition (sale) of the weapon (who/when sold to).
S/A Valles went over some of the evidence in the case, which included a fax received by New Deal from the national trace center, with the request for information on who purchased the weapon. S/A Valles explained that when a firearm is recovered, there in no information on the form to the FFL that indicates where the weapon was recovered or under what circumstances.
S/A Valles requested copies of all 4473s involving purchases made by Penny Torres, which includes identifiers (SSN, DOB). New Deal attempted to send the information back via fax, however, there was a problem, and New Deal ultimately wound up complying with the request by sending it thru the mail. (Permitted.) All firearms purchased by Torres were put into the suspect weapon program. He was later informed another one of these weapons was recovered in Mexico. Penny Torres was also flagged in the “NIC” (phonetic) system, which would prevent her from purchasing any more weapons, as she had become suspected of being a straw purchaser.
S/A Valles investigated Penny Torres.
FFL New Deal completed a multiple handgun sales report on the pistols Torres purchased, however, he stated he ran a trace on the handguns in early September and ATF didn’t received the report until October 2010. [There was no additional explanation or details.]
Torres was under physical surveillance in Deming, and law enforcement attempted to place trackers on her vehicle as they were trying to determine who she was a straw purchaser for.
S/A Valles recalled that he called New Deal to set up an appointment to interview Terri regarding the Torres purchases. Valles stated he set up the interview with Terri for 09/24/2010. Valles stated he and S/A Martinez (HSI) arrived to conduct the interview and had to wait 15-20 minutes because she was busy with customers. Valles states Terri talked to them and was cooperative and gave a brief interview. They had to follow her around the store while she was working and she was not giving them her full attention. Terri never mentioned any other person coming in with Torres except for the kids.
In mid-October, he learned Torres as an associate of Jose Roman. They decided to follow up that lead and submitted a request to New Deal for other purchase documents.
After information was received in October, they set up an interview with Rick Reese, since Rick’s name is the name listed on the FFL. They set an appointment for October 28, 2010, and spoke with him in the parking lot. The asked for Rick’s (sales) receipts during the interview, and Rick told them he couldn’t provide them because his CPA in AZ had them, and he wouldn’t give them without a subpoena. S/A Valles stated the receipts they wanted were located on the property during the search warrant. S/A claimed because of this Rick wasn’t being truthful with them.
Defense attorneys objected pointing out the documents were not on the properly in Oct 2011, and the search wasn’t conducted until Aug 2011, and there is no foundation. Defense requested the comment about being truthful be stricken from the record. The judge did strike those comments from the record.
S/A Valles continued and stated by that time they knew there was a link between Roman and Torres and were trying to determine if Torres was in the store with Roman. He stated Rick recalled that Penny came in with children, and didn’t recall anyone else. Valles stated Rick gave the interview, and at times talked about unrelated items. The interview was lengthy and random since Rick was going off topic. A decision was made to continue the investigation.
On December 13, a decision was made to contact Torres. She was still flagged in NIC and still under surveillance.
She was contacted approximately December 13th. She agreed to cooperate and she voluntarily came to HSI in Deming.
The defense objected to redundancy and the Judge told the prosecutor to move on.
Valles took part in the arrest of Roman because of the Penny Torres firearms angle. He explained that ATF was part of the New Deal investigation because typically FFLs under investigation involves ATF.
Valles participated in the search warrant at New Deal and identified various ATF related documents seized from New Deal, including his FFL license, and some of the A&D logs.
Agent Valles explained some of the details about an AK47, a high power, magazine fed, gas operated weapon, with 7.62x39mm ammo, used by military and para-military persons, and described it as functional and smooth. The Judge interrupted and asked Agent Valles what “AK” stood for. Agent Valles couldn’t remember what the A stood for, but the K stands for Kalisnikov.
Valles then went on to explain what an “AR” is and that both are high power, magazine fed, gas operated, similar to the AK, but using a different caliber of ammunition, .223. He also described the pistols purchase (9mm) and a Barrett 50 caliber gun, which is a very high power, bolt action, that is primarily used by law enforcement as a sniper rifle, that is used in the prone position, as it has too much power to shoot from the standing up position.
Defense Attorney Sedillo asked Agent Valles if he and S/A Martinez made an appointment to interview Rick, and he replied yes. Sedillo asked if during the interview of Rick if they asked about Roman. Agent Valles stated Terri was busy. Sedillo also asked him if he knew that when S/A Martinez ran into Terri at KMart (possibly Walmart) that Terri told him she was available for follow-up anytime, he replied he wasn’t aware of that.
Regarding the request to send back information to the National Trace Center, Valles admitted that all information returned was correct, and that either Terri or Rick had sent it back.
Agent Valles stated the A&D logs were filled out correctly, except that Penny Torres was not the actual purchaser. Attorney Sedillo pointed out that that is a question for the Jury to decide because the 4473 matches the A&D logs.
Attorney Sedillo asked a series of questions:
Did Penny Torres walk into New Deal? Yes.
Did she sign the 4473 as the purchaser? Yes.
Did she provide her information? Yes.
Did she pay for the purchases? Yes.
Did she fill out the 4473 form? Yes.
She asked if there were any phone calls from Torres and he advised there was one recorded which was reflected in his report as an interview. He didn’t recall how long the interview was, but on questioning agreed that it was “minutes”.
Defense Attorney Jason Bowles continued questioning S/A Valles on this phone call, which was on January 21. Bowles asked if that call was on the same day Roman was arrested. Bowles hesitated and asked to look at his file. On the last page of the interview the phone call lasted 33 minutes.
There was a discussion about a transcript, and they wanted to know where the transcript came from as the AUSA hadn’t sent the transcript. Agent Valles stated he had never seen the transcript before, and stated he had notes, but they were not verbatim. Valles stated he didn’t give <something> to her. (Not sure if the reference was to a transcript of the phone call, or his notes, and the “her” might be one of the prosecutors in the case.)
Bowles asked if Penny Torres was worried about getting arrested because of her children. [All I heard Valles state in response was, "Uhhhhh...."]
The Judge asked if Valles was satisfied that the paper he had been handed was a transcript, and Valles stated he wanted to see his file, since he hadn’t seen this paper before as he had only done a summary report. Valles was given his investigative file, and the Judge called for a break to give him time to review.
Continued in separate post.