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Watchdog Says Feds Shouldn't Have Let Man Take Grenade Parts To Mexico

A Justice Department watchdog says repeated failures by federal agents and prosecutors allowed a man to transport grenade parts to Mexican drug cartels.

The case, in which agents allowed the American to go through with potentially illegal behavior in order to catch bigger fish, is reminiscent of Operation Fast and Furious, the gun-walking scandal that plagued the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms for years.

NPR's Carrie Johnson tells our newscast unit that the Justice Department's Inspector General uncovered serious flaws. She filed this report:

"The review covers the Justice Department's investigation of Jean Baptiste Kingery.

"He allegedly delivered grenade components to Mexican drug cartels and got away with it.

"A new inspector general report says agents at the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms lost track of the grenade parts. And the U.S. Attorneys office in Arizona resisted prosecuting Kingery under arms export control laws.

"Prosecutors in Mexico eventually built a criminal case against him. Watchdogs say U.S. agents and prosecutors failed to consider the risk to public safety.

"They also criticize lax supervision by higher ups.

"The Justice Department says it does not condone the behavior and that people responsible for it have been reassigned or retired."

In a summary of the 99-page report, the Inspector General draws parallels to Fast and Furious, where agents lost track of guns being trafficked into Mexico. Both operations were complex, the IG says. Both were poorly staffed and supervised and both failed to foresee that the items being smuggled into Mexico could be used for deadly purposes in the future.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California is still investigating the Kingery case.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.