A sensational election-season report into the botched Operation Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation has cast new light on a simultaneous Florida firearms investigation linked to violence in Colombia, Honduras and Puerto Rico.
Called Operation Castaway, the Florida case has received far less attention than Fast and Furious. The latter became an embarrassing distraction for Obama’s administration when it was implicated in the death of a federal agent and Mexico massacres, according to federal documents and a new cross-border investigative report by the Spanish-language network Univision.
Two Justice Department officials resigned and a dozen more face possible disciplinary action after the September release of a scathing 512-page Inspector General’s report that detailed the “seriously flawed” Fast and Furious case in which Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents allowed AK 47-style firearms and other weapons to cross the border into Mexico.
The report never mentions the lesser-known Operation Castaway, and federal agents have pointed out numerous substantive differences with Fast and Furious.
But the Florida man imprisoned in Operation Castaway, Hugh Crumpler III, claims in court papers and in the Univision reports that the cases are alike because agents allowed guns to get into the hands of bad guys from Miami to Tampa to Jacksonville.
“There was no difference between Operation Fast and Furious and Operation Castaway,” Crumpler wrote last week in a federal court filing that seeks an early release from his 30-month prison sentence.
Federal agents in Operation Castaway said they intercepted nearly all the weapons he sold and tried to keep them in the country while Crumpler was under investigation. Crumpler’s customers were linked to gangs or cartels from Puerto Rico to Honduras, which is now one of the world’s most violent countries.
By contrast, Fast and Furious was designed to allow guns — about 2,000 — to go out of the country. Crumpler admitted he dealt about 1,000 firearms, including the notorious Fabrique Nationale Herstal semi-automatic handguns nicknamed cop-killing “ matapolicias” by cartel thugs who prize their armor-piercing capabilities.
“At no point during Operation Castaway did U.S. law enforcement officials allow illegally purchased firearms to be shipped to Honduras,” William Daniels, a spokesman for the Middle District of Florida’s U.S. attorney’s office said in a written statement.
“Specific knowledge about weapons exported by this criminal group to Honduras was developed over the course of the investigation, after the weapons had already been shipped,” he said. “U.S. authorities had no prior knowledge of these shipments.”
The court records clearly show that five guns linked to Castaway made it to crime scenes — including a murder — in Colombia and Puerto Rico. The records don’t indicate whether those guns made it out of the country before or after ATF acknowledged investigating Crumpler on Aug. 29, 2009, about two years after he admittedly first began dealing weapons. Crumpler was arrested in late January 2010.
During the five months ATF monitored Crumpler, he was observed making “apparent” firearms transactions from Orlando to Little Havana. The buyers were not immediately arrested and the records don’t show what happened to them or the weapons, if there were any.