ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Records show a gun smuggling operation run by former town officials in Columbus, N.M., had a direct link to targets of the bungled "Fast and Furious" operation run by federal officials in Arizona.

Federal prosecutors have sought to distance the Columbus gun smuggling case from the Arizona probe.

But reports obtained by the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/SgbB9U ) show federal agents were aware in early 2010 that the leader of the Columbus ring had been stopped a few months earlier with weapons purchased by a suspect involved in the Fast and Furious case.

That connection apparently dried up and ringleader and town trustee Blas "Woody" Gutierrez began buying guns himself and paying others to buy guns for him from a New Mexico dealer. He has pleaded guilty to gun smuggling but hasn't been sentenced.