Federal sting nabs Florida gang member in gun scam


Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 9:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 9:31 p.m.

MCALLEN, Texas — A Florida gang member has pleaded guilty in a drug and arms conspiracy after he tried to trade guns for cocaine with federal agents he believed were members of a Mexican drug cartel.

Lawrence James Panka pleaded guilty Friday in McAllen, concluding a case that included a monthlong undercover sting operation that began in Pharr, Texas and ended in December in Sarasota, Fla.

The McAllen Monitor reports (http://bit.ly/Y5GCx1 ) that on Dec. 11, Panka thought he was trading guns for cocaine with members of a Mexican drug cartel. But the men he met were agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Panka wanted to trade or sell automatic rifles for either $2,000 each or one ounce of cocaine per firearm.

Two other men are charged as co-conspirators.

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