Theirs are cruel and tragic. In addition to being offensive, stupid, destructive to communities, exploitative of the mentally handicapped, and entrapment when they hire felons to work in their phony gun stores.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that in addition to Fearlessly Distributing guns to criminals, the ATF has plenty more violently stupid operations going on:
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.
There are all kinds of these storefront operations set up around the country, where the ATF goes in, rents a storefront, sells goods for below cost, then offers to buy stolen items and guns. It ends up creating crime.
An undercover operation in Atlanta, a smoke shop called ATL Blaze, experienced similar problems. Some defendants came to the store as many as 20 times after stealing weapons and other goods.
Some guns were stolen from police squad cars. ATF agents said in court documents they tried to deter such thefts by paying less for police guns.
The burglaries associated with ATL Blaze caused other problems for local law enforcement. Sheriff’s deputies and local police — unaware the weapons had already been recovered by federal agents — scrambled around to solve the burglaries, spending untold resources interviewing witnesses.
At times, they never solved the case. And the weapons never made it back to the owners.
A Hi-Point pistol stolen from a car just after Christmas in 2010, for example, was still listed as stolen by the Fulton County Police Department when the Journal Sentinel contacted the department last month. ATF agents bought the gun at their secret storefront a week after it was taken.
“If the ATF recovered this weapon, it should be in our system.” said Lt. G.T. Johnson, of the department. “We have not received any notification that it was recovered.”
The lack of communication not only affects the clearance rate for the police department but also is a problem for whoever has the gun now, Johnson said.
Molchan, the state prosecutor in Pensacola, said there were worries at the outset that the sting might encourage more burglaries, but agents in charge concluded the risk was worth it.
“That is one of the concerns that you have going into something like this,” he said. “That is certainly worrisome.”
And it’s not just residents that got hit by the thieves. Anything for a Buck itself was ripped off, just like the agency’s Fearless storefront in Milwaukee. The Pensacola sting was burglarized at least twice, records show.
“I remember hearing that and kind of laughing about it, ‘We got burglarized,’” Molchan said.
Despite those problems, Molchan said he thinks the operation was successful.
“We did accomplish getting the bad guys off the street and incarcerated them,” he said. “Certainly no operation is perfect, but overall we view it as a major success.”
They accomplished creating crime where there was less before they arrived. They don’t live in those neighborhoods, and yet they worked to destroy local communities, hurt residents with crime, generate more crime, burden local authorities with having to fight the crime they create, and then leave victims of theft still violated by the loss of their property.
One of the larger thefts linked to the operation was that of engagement and wedding rings, worth $15,000, that were stolen four months after the store opened.
“It requires no great thinking to know if you accept stolen goods in a pawnshop … people are going to sell you stolen goods,” said Harris, the professor from Pittsburgh. “You’re asking people who frequent that place to rob and burglarize their neighbors.”
It’s unclear how many of the stolen items were returned to their rightful owners. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office put thousands of items on display at an open house after the bust and invited the public to come in to claim their belongings. Laptops, GPS devices, tools and jewelry filled the room.
According to local news accounts at the time, just 23 items — not including guns — were returned to 10 people. The sheriff’s office refused to answer Journal Sentinel questions.
But wait, there’s more – ATF agents encouraged local kids who hung out at the Squid’s pawn shop next to a school (for added school zone crime penalties) to play video games to get tattoos:
Glover and Key, both 19 at the time, were regulars at Squid’s. Glover lived right around the corner and spent hours at a time playing video games with Squid and people he thought were store workers.
One day the idea of getting a tattoo came up, Glover told the Journal Sentinel. Glover said he was reluctant, but that he was persuaded by the guys at Squid’s, who he thought were his friends.
“It was like, ‘Now you guys are honorary members of the club,’” Glover said. “We was young at the time … I was so naive.”
After they got the tattoos, he said agents took pictures and posted them on the phony storefront’s Facebook page and website.
“They humiliated us,” he said. “They were making a mockery of us.”
Glover was ultimately charged with trading an ounce of marijuana for clothing at the store. The charge included selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.
Little, who spent eight years as a federal prosecutor in California and a year as associate deputy attorney general in Washington, D.C., said he had never heard of such out-of-bounds behavior by federal agents.
“That’s about as far over the line as you can imagine,” Little said. “The government shouldn’t be encouraging people to permanently disfigure their bodies.”
Little was apparently unaware of Fast and Furious, where the ATF ran guns to the Mexican narcoterrorist cartels with the intent of finding them at crime scenes.
Charles Cooke at NRO did a piece on the Journal-Sentinel story and even got Fast and Furious wrong:
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is probably best known these days for the failure of its disastrous Fast and Furious scheme — a botched initiative that aimed to give American guns to Mexican cartels first and to ask questions later. Under pressure, the administration was quick to imply that the mistake was an aberration.
There was nothing “botched” about it. The ATF set out to send guns to the cartels and did so. They intended to send guns to the cartels, and they did so. The administration made up their own story, but proceeded to hide behind executive privilege when pressed for details and information about who was responsible.
If something is an “aberration” or a “botched sting”, then there’s nothing to hide. There’s only accepting responsibility for mistakes. Fast and Furious was no mistake.
Fearless Distributing and Squids and Anything for a Buck were not mistakes – they were all deliberate strategies by the ATF. The ATF agents above even said they believe they’re doing the right thing by creating crime because then they take “bad guys off the street” – bad guys they enabled, supported, and helped to facilitate.
They hired felons in their stores to entrap people. They contributed and encouraged thefts and crime. They kept local law enforcement in the dark while spurring criminal enterprises in their communities. They took advantage of the mentally handicapped. They gave guns to felons walking out of their own stores – people they knew were criminals – and did nothing.
The JPFO is right – it’s time to boot the ATF.