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When Uriel Patino walked into a Glendale, Ariz., gun store last August and placed an order for 20 handguns, federal gun agents already knew the 25-year-old man as the most prolific figure in a trafficking ring that was supplying hundreds of guns to Mexico’s brutal Sinoloa drug cartel, according to federal court documents and congressional investigators.

In the prior 10 months, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced 673 area gun purchases to the Phoenix resident, congressional investigators found.

Now, Patino was back for more. And the ATF, eager for the young suspect to lead them to a bigger fish in the rich trafficking ring, was more than happy to oblige, despite concerns raised by the local gun store. Alarmed by the size of Patino’s August request, the dealer, who was cooperating with federal investigators, asked the ATF whether a special order for the weapons should be placed because there were only four in stock.

Source: Kevin Johnson for USA Today.

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