You’ve probably heard of “Operation Fast and Furious,” a botched federal sting that put guns in the hands of Mexican criminals and the scene where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed.
Now comes news of a similar Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation that went awry in Milwaukee. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation uncovered a mistake-plagued ATF sting out of a rented storefront in that city.
Among the findings:
– Several guns, including a military-style machine gun, were stolen from an ATF agent’s SUV and $35,000 worth of merchandise was burglarized from the store, which served as a front for undercover agents to buy guns.
“Turns out, the ATF has weapons stolen or loses them more frequently than the public might think, according to a 2008 report from the Office of the Inspector General with the U.S. Department of Justice,” the story read.
“In a five-year span from 2002-’07, for example, 76 ATF weapons were stolen, lost or missing, according to the report. That’s nearly double the number compared with the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, when considering rates per 1,000 agents.”
– When the operation was shut down, a list was left behind containing the names, phone numbers and vehicles of undercover agents.
– The fake store bought guns for inflated prices. For example, agents bought a handgun for $1,250 that goes for $400 to $700 online.
– Stings intended to be set up in crime hotspots took place in areas were crime was declining.
– The ATF relied on skewed data when boasting of the stings’ accomplishments, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
– While 30 people were charged in the Milwaukee sting, most were for low-level offenses and in three cases, agents had the wrong suspect. In one case, a suspect accused of drug dealing was in prison at the time of his alleged crimes.
– The landlord who went to the agents says he’s owed $15,000 in back rent, utility bills and damage to his property.
As the story points out, it’s not just a matter of bad publicity for the ATF. ” … in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut, as President Barack Obama considers new restrictions on guns, the agency is poised to take on additional responsibilities.”
BY JEFF HORSEMAN