According to a new report, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used ‘rogue tactics’ when executing drug sting operations.
Earlier this year when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exposed a failed ATF sting in Milwaukee, ATF officials told congress the incident was a case of inadequate supervision. Turns out that it wasn’t, and reporters for the Journal Sentinel discovered that ATF agents “befriended mentally disabled people to drum up business and later arrested them…”
The tactics were not limited sting operations in Milwaukee, but were found to be practiced all over the country.
Among the findings:
■ Agents in several cities opened undercover gun- and drug-buying operations in safe zones near churches and schools, allowed juveniles to come in and play video games and teens to smoke marijuana, and provided alcohol to underage youths. In Portland, attorneys for three teens who were charged said a female agent dressed provocatively, flirted with the boys and encouraged them to bring drugs and weapons to the store to sell.
■ As they did in Milwaukee, agents in other cities offered sky-high prices for guns, leading suspects to buy firearms at stores and turn around and sell them to undercover agents for a quick profit. In other stings, agents ran fake pawnshops and readily bought stolen items, such as electronics and bikes — no questions asked — spurring burglaries and theft. In Atlanta, agents bought guns that had been stolen just hours earlier, several ripped off from police cars.
■ Agents pressed suspects for specific firearms that could fetch tougher penalties in court. They allowed felons to walk out of the stores armed with guns. In Wichita, agents suggested a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back — and provided instructions on how to do it. The sawed-off gun allowed them to charge the man with a more serious crime.
■ In Pensacola, the ATF hired a felon to run its pawnshop. The move widened the pool of potential targets, boosting arrest numbers.Even those trying to sell guns legally could be charged if they knowingly sold to a felon. The ATF’s pawnshop partner was later convicted of pointing a loaded gun at someone outside a bar. Instead of a stiff sentence typically handed down to repeat offenders in federal court, he got six months in jail — and a pat on the back from the prosecutor.
ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun provided the following statement on the issue: “Long-term undercover investigations are one of many tools used by ATF in locations that have high levels of violence occuring in the demographics and a mechanism is needed to rid the area of a large volume of individuals (as) opposed to a handful of individuals.”
The agency did not release the number of undercover storefronts it operates each year, or disclose their locations.
Thoughts on the findings of the report?
Are the ATF’s practices unethical? Or just another means of getting the bad guys off of the street?
Sound off below!