Suspect takes plea deal in border agent's slaying at center of botched gun-smuggling probe

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TUCSON, Arizona — A suspect in the 2010 killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent has struck a plea deal in the slaying that is at the center of a scandal over a botched U.S. gun-smuggling probe known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and will likely be sentenced to 30 years in prison. The plea deal struck this week allows him credit for time served.

Burboa-Alvarez is accused of assembling the armed crew that was supposed to steal marijuana from smugglers when they encountered Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and others on Dec. 14, 2010. He initially pleaded not guilty.

A gun fight between the so-called "rip-off crew" and border agents ensued, and Terry was killed. Authorities later discovered that two of the guns found at the scene of the murder had been part of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation in which 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 of the 2,000 guns they allowed smugglers to buy.

The scandal resulted in the resignation of top officials.

Since then, authorities have focused on arresting and trying all suspects involved.

The first was Manual Osorio-Arellanes, who was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in February 2014 after pleading guilty to first-degree murder. Osorio-Arellanes was wounded in the shooting and maintains that he was not the shooter. Prosecutors said he was likely not the one who shot Terry, but he should still be held accountable for his role in the agent's death.

Two others who were at the scene of the slaying are facing charges in Arizona after being extradited from Mexico.

Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, also known as Lionel Portillo-Meza, was extradited in June 2014. Ivan Soto-Barraza was captured in Mexico in September 2013 and was brought to the U.S. on July 31, 2014. Two others, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga and Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, remain fugitives.

The suspects in custody are being prosecuted in federal court in Tucson by prosecutors from San Diego. Trial for Sanchez-Meza and Soto-Barraza is scheduled for Sept. 22.

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