Ex-agent: Suspects admitted role in theft plan

Posted at 1:45 PM, Sep 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-28 16:45:32-04

A former FBI agent testified Monday that two men on trial in the killing of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry confessed to being part of a gang of armed thieves who planned on robbing marijuana smugglers.

Retired FBI agent Todd Polley interviewed Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, also known as Lionel Portillo-Meza, and Ivan Soto-Barraza after they were arrested in Mexico in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

The men are accused of being members of a five-man "rip crew" that had intended on robbing drug smugglers when they encountered Terry and three other agents on Dec. 14, 2010. A gunfight ensued and Terry was killed.

Defense attorney Ramiro Flores has said the defendants fled when shots were fired and did not initiate the firefight.

Two guns found at the scene were traced to a botched federal gun sting that allowed criminals to buy weapons with the intention of tracking them. Instead, federal agents lost about 1,400 guns.

Sanchez-Meza and Soto-Barraza are the first defendants in the case to go on trial in the killing. Two others -- including a man who assembled the crew but who was not present that night -- have pleaded guilty and two are fugitives.

Polley said Soto-Barraza told him he was carrying a loaded assault rifle on the night Terry was shot.

"The weapon was to be used to rip off drug backpackers," Polley said.

Polley is the final witness for the prosecution.

The trial began Wednesday.

In early testimony, former Agent William Castano broke down in tears as he described desperately trying to save Terry's life.

Castano was the leader of the operation aimed at arresting rip crew members. The team was set to be relieved in an hour when the shooting occurred.