ATF reportedly used rogue tactics in a half-dozen cities

ATF_Reuters.JPGFox News

Federal ATF agents in cities across the country reportedly used rogue tactics to go after guns on the street — allegedly exploiting the mentally ill, buying up weapons for way more than they’re worth and letting minors smoke pot and drink.

The details were included in an expose by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which reported earlier this year on an embarrassing set of blunders made by the Milwaukee arm of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.   

The operation in Milwaukee apparently was not a one-off, as officials claimed.

Instead, it was part of a pattern of questionable decisions that were employed by six ATF operations, including Milwaukee, nationwide, according to the Journal Sentinel.

The newspaper reviewed thousands of pages of court records, police reports and other documents, which led them to their findings that the tactics used in the Milwaukee stings were used in operations from Portland, Ore., to Pensacola, Fla.

Similar to the Milwaukee operation, agents in other cities set up a gun buyback program that turned into a cash cow for sellers. The ATF offered sky-high prices, so people would just buy guns at other shops and turn them over to undercover agents for a quick profit, according to the report.

A statement from the ATF on Monday claimed the report was “biased,” and said the investigations are all aimed at improving public safety.

“The nature of these complex investigations is weighed against the need to increase public safety in a community. Many ATF agents place themselves in vulnerable circumstances with high probability for imminent  danger from violent criminals in these long-term investigations. But the men and women of ATF do this willingly to rid communities of these criminals,” the statement said. “The purpose of a long-term undercover operation is to specifically target a criminal element, street gang or an organization that is bringing violence to a community. … This mechanism is necessary to rid the area of a large volume of individuals opposed to just a handful of individuals.”

According to the newspaper report, ATF agents also befriended mentally disabled people to spread the word about the gun buyback programs and manipulate them to help during stings.

“In Wichita, Kan., ATF agents referred to a man with a low IQ as ‘slow-headed’ before deciding to secretly use him as a key cog in their sting,” the paper reported. “Agents in Albuquerque, N.M., gave a brain-damaged drug addict with little knowledge of weapons a ‘tutorial’ on machine guns, hoping he could find them one.” Other questionable activity was reported in Atlanta, Ga.

Like in Milwaukee, agents set up several undercover gun- and drug-buying operations near churches and schools. They let minors to come in, play video games, smoke marijuana and drink alcohol.

In Portland, ATF agents allegedly used a scantily clad officer to lure in teenage boys and encouraged them to bring weapons and drugs to the store to sell.

Calls made by to the ATF were not immediately returned.

Earlier this year, the Journal Sentinel claimed that the ATF conducted a deeply flawed sting operation that resulted in a still-missing machine gun being taken from an agent’s car, thousands of taxpayer dollars being lost in merchandise and angry residents saying that ATF officials reintroduced crime into their neighborhood. The operation came on the heels of the botched Operation Fast and Furious anti-gun trafficking program.

“I am intent on getting to the bottom of the botched ATF sting in Milwaukee,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told at the time.

Calls to Sensenbrenner’s office for comment were not immediately returned.

Start the Conversation

Your email address will not be published.