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Mountain Ridge

A compelling account of a risky border operation and a half-forgotten scandal.

An ATF whistleblower tells his story.

With firearms strictly controlled in their country, Mexican drug cartels purchase illegal American arms smuggled across the border. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is charged with stopping the flow. Forcelli, a veteran New York City police detective, transferred to the ATF in 2001, became a supervisor, and then moved to Phoenix in 2007. Much of this memoir, co-written with MacGregor, is an entertaining account of ATF agents at work. Mostly, gun smugglers patronize legitimate gun dealers in the U.S., and the process of smuggling them into Mexico is relatively easy because Mexican border officials know better than to aggressively search for them. Although gun dealers have a bad reputation, the author emphasizes that almost all are honest. Many provide the ATF with highly valuable informants, calling whenever a buyer seems suspicious. But soon after arriving at his new job, Forcelli made a jolting discovery. In New York, ATF agents and federal prosecutors work in harmony; on the southern border, his agents would make arrests and present strong cases, only to have the prosecutors reject them for flimsy reasons over and over. Offering cases to the state prosecutor or local police sometimes helped, but the stubborn refusal of the federal prosecution office was demoralizing. Fed up, Forcelli informed his congressional representative and became a whistleblower. Hearings and media attention followed. Since then, matters in Arizona have improved, although many offenders remain in their positions. Whistleblowers are often portrayed as heroes in the media and Hollywood, but, as the author shows, their lives are often ruined. They pay enormous legal fees, usually lose their jobs and many friends, and suffer retaliation that persists indefinitely. More fortunate than most, although Forcelli left Arizona, he remained at the ATF until his retirement a few years later.

A compelling account of a risky border operation and a half-forgotten scandal.

Kudos to my co-author--Kate MacGregor-- for taking a very long, dry, police report like manuscript and turning it into an easy read and a book worthy of such a review! Thank you, Kate!

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