Looks like Obama’s “Fast and Furious” is alive and well… That is unless you believe it’s possible for a professional trucker to accidentally enter Mexico from Arizona.
The U.S. truck driver detained by Mexican authorities Tuesday with 268,000 rounds of ammunition was transporting a legal cargo to Phoenix but mistakenly exited to Juárez, the man’s employer said on Wednesday.
Dennis Mekenye, owner of Demco Transportation Inc. in Arlington, Texas, said Bogan Jabin Akeem, 27, left Dallas on Monday with a trailer with nine pallets containing the ammunition.
The cargo was being taken from Tennessee to an ammunition retailer in Phoenix called United Nations Ammo Co. as part of a legitimate transaction, Mekenye said.
Akeem made a stop in El Paso and, before driving the last stretch toward Phoenix, he accidentally took a wrong turn toward the international Bridge of the Americas, his boss said.
“It was a mistake for him to take a wrong turn and find himself in Mexican soil,” Mekenye said. “He missed the exit, and he went south. He asked one cop there, ‘I missed my exit, how can I turn around?’ ”
Mekenye said Akeem could not turn the vehicle around at the bridge and had to continue into Mexico. Coming back,
Mexican authorities told him they had to inspect his vehicle.
Mekenye said he didn’t know whether Akeem declared he was transporting ammunition or whether Mexican authorities discovered the cargo upon inspection.
“It was a legitimate movement from Tennessee to Phoenix,” said Mekenye, who also said that his company does not ship to Mexico and that he has never been investigated for shipping contraband.
The owner of United Nations Ammo in Phoenix, who identified himself only as “Howie,” said he was expecting Akeem to arrive Tuesday night to offload the cargo Wednesday morning.
“All the media was calling it cartel ammo, but we paid for that ammo, it’s really our property. In no way whatsoever was that ammunition ever supposed to go to Mexico,” he said. “We ordered this ammunition, and it’s ammunition meant to be sold in the United States of America for legal hobbyists, legal shooters and legal enthusiasts.”
The cargo had a value of $100,000, he said.
“It’s a tremendous shipment we paid for,” he said. “We’re hoping they will release the man and our property so it can be delivered to us.”
Howie declined to comment on how large the order of ammunition rounds was compared with previous ones.
Federal officials did not respond to calls seeking comment on Mekenye’s version of the events.
Akeem was arrested Tuesday evening by Mexican federal authorities and will remain in custody until a court determines whether a criminal case will go forward. Mexican authorities have 48 hours to decide whether they will continue with an investigation.
José Angel Torres Valadez, spokesman in the Northern region for Mexico’s General Attorney’s Office, or PGR, said he could not share any details until the 48-hour period has passed but said it is possible that Akeem will be taken to Mexico City to continue the investigation.
Akeem was driving a tractor-trailer with Texas plates and the logo “McKinney Trailer Rentals.” A spokesman with McKinney confirmed that Mekenye’s company has been a McKinney client for several years.
The bullets were being transported inside metal boxes. Sources said the ammunition is of the type used for AK-47 and AR-15 rifles. The rifles are often used by members of Mexican criminal organizations.
The bullets are legal to buy in the United States, but the ammunition is banned in Mexico, which considers those types of rifles and bullets only for military use. The seizure was one of the largest made by Mexican authorities in Juárez since a vicious drug-cartel war that has killed more than 9,500 people erupted four years ago.
Mekenye said he has been in touch with the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Department of Homeland Security.
Olga Bashbush, spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, confirmed that Akeem was a U.S. citizen and said consular officials met with him Tuesday. Representatives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not return calls seeking comment.
Mekenye said that Akeem had been his employee for more than two years. A criminal background check showed Akeem did not appear to have any previous convictions or run-ins with the law.
U.S. authorities have increased enforcement to try to stop the so-called Iron River, or flow of weapons, into Mexico.
Last week, a U.S. Border Patrol agent from El Paso and his girlfriend were arrested by U.S. federal agents on gun-smuggling related charges. They are accused of lying on federal forms to buy firearms and ammo intended for Mexico.
In Juárez, local police operations have resulted in the seizure of 168 weapons so far this year.
Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6129. Follow him on Twitter @AlejandroEPT