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Rip-crew recruiter pleads guilty to role in Brian Terry killing

The recruiter for the rip-crew that allegedly killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry pleaded guilty to first degree murder as part of an agreement that will allow him to escape the death penalty. 

On Monday, Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez entered a guilty plea in federal court in Tucson to first degree murder for his role in the shooting death of Terry, who was killed during a nighttime firefight in rugged terrain north of Nogales in December 2010. 

The indictment is part of an investigation into the death of Terry, who was killed when he and three other Border Patrol agents encountered five men operating as a "rip crew" — a group who allegedly robbed drug smugglers near Peck Canyon, north of Nogales.

Burboa-Alvarez was in charge of recruiting and paid the crew when they returned to Mexico. 

As part of the deal Burboa-Alvarez will be sentenced to 360 months imprisonment with credit for time served since his arrest Oct. 2, 2012. 

Burboa-Alvarez, nicknamed "El Pariente," was already in custody in Tucson for "immigration-related crimes," during his indictment federal prosecutors said.

The agreement waves eight other counts federal prosecutors lodged against Burboa-Alvarez in an August 2014 indictment.

This includes charges of second degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, and assault on a federal officer. 

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Under the agreement Burboa-Alvarez waives any right to appeal. Additionally, as he was also under deportation proceedings when he was indicted for Terry's murder, he will be removed from the United States after his prison sentence ends

In the agreement, Burboa-Alvarez admitted that he recruited the members of a rip-crew, who entered the United States on foot and used caches of weapons and supplies hidden in the desert to intimidate smugglers into giving up their loads of marijuana. The group would then hand over the marijuana to other co-conspirators, who would sell the drugs for a profit. 

The remaining conspirators identified by federal prosecutors are Manuel Osorio Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, Lionel Portillo-Meza and Rito Osorio-Arellanes. 

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes was wounded during the shootout and later arrested near the scene. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2014, after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the case. Rito Osorio-Arellanes was arrested on immigration charges in 2010 and pled guilty.

In June 2014, Portillo-Meza and Soto-Barraza were arrested in Mexico and both were extradited to the United States. Both men pled not guilty and have hearings scheduled in September. 

Meanwhile, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga remain at large in Mexico. A $250,000 reward has been offered for the arrest of each.

After the murder of Terry, an investigation showed that one of two AK-47-patterned rifles was connected to a Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives operation designed to track the sale of guns bought by straw purchasers in Phoenix-area gun stores and smuggled into Mexico. However, the agency lost track of at least 2,000 of these weapons, including the one used to kill Terry. 

Ultimately, the agency recovered around 700 of the weapons. 

The operation dubbed "Fast and Furious" became the focus of a congressional investigation that ultimately led to the contempt hearing of former Attorney General Eric Holder. 

Fallout from the case forced U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke to resign, and the U.S. Attorney's Office of Arizona had to recuse itself from the case. 

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TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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CBP

Slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry