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Armed drug scout sentenced to 8 years in prison

A Mexican man was sentenced to more than 8 years in prison Wednesday by a federal judge in Tucson, after he admitted he was working as armed lookout for drug smugglers.

Jose Abelordo Guzman-Perez, 21, was sentenced to 97 months in prison, followed by three years on probation, by U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins. Guzman-Perez pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and carrying a firearm during a drug crime.

On the evening of September 28, 2016, a remote surveillance camera spotted Guzman-Perez, and another man, Lorenzo Antonio Infante-Ortiz, 28, carrying backpacks — loaded with more than 80 pounds of marijuana — and rifles near the Roskruge Mountains, about 26 miles west of Tucson.

According to court documents, Guzman-Perez was carrying an AK-47-style rifle and a .45-caliber pistol, while his partner was armed with an AR-15, and a 9 mm pistol.

A Border Patrol helicopter confirmed the location of the pair, and during the night, agents with the Tucson Sector’s Border Patrol Tactical Unit, or BORTAC, moved to capture the two men, moving through the desert using night-vision googles.

Around 1 a.m., the BORTAC agents surrounded the two men, and then announced their presence to take the pair in custody.

Infante-Ortiz attempted to flee, but was detained after a brief struggle. Guzman-Perez reached for his rifle, but was “promptly tackled by an agent,” said Cosme Lopez, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Guzman-Perez fought with the BORTAC agent, and in the ensuing struggle, both Guzman-Perez and the agent fell off a nearby cliff, dropping about 6 feet. The fall dislocated the agent’s left shoulder, but the agent held on, while Guzman-Perez “continued to push, kick and punch him,” said Lopez.

Guzman-Perez was able to break away, and fell several times as he ran down the mountainside in the dark. Finally, an agent was able to close in and apprehend him.

During an interview, Infante-Ortiz told agents that he and Guzman-Perez were tasked as scouts and were supposed to clear the route for other men carrying marijuana who were about two or three days behind them. The weapons were to protect the narcotics from rip crews, or bandits, he said.

Infante-Ortiz pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and illegal possession of a firearm, and was sentenced in April to 36 months in prison. 

The prosecutions were handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lawrence Lee and Adam Rossi in Tucson, and the investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and BORTAC.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A Border Patrol agent ropes down from a Black Hawk helicopter during a demonstration in 2016.