TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – A man who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. Border Patrol agent whose death exposed a botched U.S. gun-smuggling operation was sentenced to 27 years in prison.
Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez was sentenced Monday for first-degree murder in the 2010 death of Agent Brian Terry, the Arizona Daily Star reported. It comes weeks after two others who were part of an armed crew trying to steal marijuana from smugglers were convicted in Terry's death.
Burboa-Alvarez is accused of assembling the "rip-off crew," two of whom remain fugitives. Another man also has pleaded guilty in connection to Terry's death and was sentenced to 30 years in prison last year.
Prosecutors argued that Burboa-Alvarez was a co-conspirator even though he was in Mexico at the time of the shooting. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors took the death penalty off the table.
The crew encountered agents in the Arizona desert on Dec. 14, 2010, and exchanged gunfire that killed Terry. Authorities later discovered that two of the guns found at the scene of the shootout had been part of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation.
In the sting operation, the federal government allowed criminals to buy guns in Phoenix-area shops with the intention of tracking them once they made their way into Mexico. But the agency lost track of more than 1,400 weapons they allowed smugglers to buy.
The probe set off a political firestorm, led to congressional investigations and became a major distraction for President Barack Obama in his first term.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt after he refused to divulge documents for a congressional investigation into the matter. Since then, the Justice Department has focused on arresting and trying all suspects involved.