Is This the Most Bungled ATF Sting Operation Ever?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Still battered from its failed “Fast and Furious” gun operation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has been exposed again for bungling an undercover, gun-related operation.


This time, the problems occurred in Milwaukee, where ATF agents last year ran a phony storefront selling clothing and drug paraphernalia, intended to nab criminals through drug and gun purchases, according to an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Along the way, the agents allowed a military-style machine gun to wind up on the streets of Milwaukee. They also lost $35,000 in merchandise when burglars broke into the store and cleared out the stock. And when ATF agents closed down the store, they left behind a document that exposed the names and other identifying information of undercover agents.


Furthermore, ATF now has a legal battle on its hands with the store’s owner, David Salkin, who did not know he was renting his building for an undercover operation and who claims the agency owes him $15,000 for unpaid utility bills, holes in the walls, broken doors and water damage.


What did ATF accomplish from its sting operation?


It arrested 30 people, “most for low-level drug sales and gun possession counts,” the newspaper wrote. “But agents had the wrong person in at least three cases. In one, they charged a man who was in prison—as a result of an earlier ATF case—at the time agents said he was selling drugs to them.”


“I have never heard of those kinds of problems in an operation,” Michael Bouchard, who retired five years ago as assistant director for field operations for the agency, told the Journal Sentinel. “Sure, small bits and pieces, but that many in one case? I have never heard of anything like that.”


The Milwaukee mess follows the much-criticized Fast and Furious operation, during which agents allowed more than 2,000 guns to be sold to gun traffickers without keeping track of most of the weapons, many of which turned up at crime scenes in Mexico.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

ATF's Milwaukee Sting Operation Marred By Mistakes, Failures (by John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Bungled ATF Operation Leaves Troubling Questions (editorial, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Letter to ATF (Representatives James Sensenbrenner, Darrell Issa, Robert Goodlatte and Senator Charles Grassley) (pdf)


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