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Task force recovers stolen weapons

WORTHINGTON -- According to information released by Buffalo Drug Task Force (BRDTF) Commander Troy Appel, more than half of the 42 guns allegedly stolen from a firearms shop in Vail, Iowa, have been recovered. Authorities are asking anyone who may have knowledge of the others to contact law enforcement.

Felix Mendez and Jose Osario-Mendez, accused of robbing a Rushmore bank in July, have both been indicted federally in Minnesota for bank robbery and in Iowa for theft of firearms. A timeline compiled by Appel follows:

May 31: The burglary at the Vail gun store took place, which included the theft of 42 firearms.

June 8: The BRDTF opened an investigation of Mendez and Osario-Mendez after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) requested assistance in their own investigation.

July 2: Mendez, Osario-Mendez, Mercedes Salena Lovan and Phothong Syhavong were arrested at a Fox Farm Road residence in Worthington following the robbery of the First State Bank of Rushmore. The Worthington Police Department, Nobles County Sheriff's Office and BRDTF executed a search warrant at the residence. Cash from the robbery and two firearms were seized.

July 4: A shooting was investigated when a James Boulevard residence was fired upon numerous times. The uninjured occupants of the house were linked to those suspected in the bank robbery. The Worthington Police Department investigated and recovered numerous .22 caliber casings.

July 14: A second search warrant was executed at the Fox Farm Road residence, but nothing was located.

July 15: A consent search was conducted by the BRDTF at the James Boulevard residence. Two long guns were located buried in the yard, and six spent .22 casings were collected from the grass.

July 21: The BRDTF and ATF worked with the Arnolds Park/Okoboji Search and Rescue dive team to search a body of water in southern Nobles County. Two assault rifles and magazines were located in the water.

July 30: The BRDTF conducted a consent search in the Fox Farm Road area and located five handguns in a plastic bag hidden under a tree.

Aug. 3: The BRDTF recovered one assault rifle when a cooperative person provided the gun to a local attorney to be released to the task force.

Aug. 4: The BRDTF recovered a handgun when a cooperative person provided the gun to a local attorney. That same day, the task force executed a third search warrant at the Fox Farm Road residence and seized a suspected methamphetamine pipe and .22 caliber bullets.

Aug. 9: Another handgun was recovered from a cooperative person and released to a local attorney.

Aug. 18: A fourth search warrant was executed by the BRDTF at the Fox Farm residence. Seven handguns buried in the yard were recovered.

The BRDTF believes half of the original 42 guns were privately sold in Iowa and Minnesota and is encouraging anyone who believes they may have purchased one of the firearms to contact authorities.