Author Topic: ATF sting store turns into comedy film  (Read 1838 times)

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Offline chitoryu12

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ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« on: January 30, 2013, 10:26:25 pm »
Alcohol, Tobacco, And Firearms Should Be a Store

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A store calling itself Fearless Distributing opened early last year on an out-of-the-way street in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood, offering designer clothes, athletic shoes, jewelry and drug paraphernalia.

Those working behind the counter, however, weren't interested in selling anything.

They were undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives running a storefront sting aimed at busting criminal operations in the city by purchasing drugs and guns from felons.

But the effort to date has not snared any major dealers or taken down a gang. Instead, it resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found.

When the 10-month operation was shut down after the burglary, agents and Milwaukee police officers who participated in the sting cleared out the store but left behind a sensitive document that listed names, vehicles and phone numbers of undercover agents.

Someone on another thread brought up the ATF having its budget cut year after year. Honestly, I can see why nobody's willing to trust them with more resources than a mail order sheriff's badge and a water pistol.
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Offline ThunderWulf

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2013, 10:58:33 pm »
How do you fuck up a sting THAT badly?
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Offline chitoryu12

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2013, 11:32:09 pm »
How do you fuck up a sting THAT badly?

I think that they entered the situation with an already false theory: that major dealers and gangs use random paraphernalia stores to try and sell off drugs and stolen guns.

I found some more stuff here. I'll post some highlights:

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And the agency remains locked in a battle with the building's owner, who says he is owed about $15,000 because of utility bills, holes in the walls, broken doors and damage from an overflowing toilet.

The sting resulted in charges being filed against about 30 people, most for low-level drug sales and gun possession counts. 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.

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Other cases reveal that the agency's operation was paying such high prices that some defendants bought guns from stores such as Gander Mountain and sold them to the agents for a quick profit.

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The agency has been on the defensive in recent years following the ill-fated Fast and Furious operation, run out of Arizona, where agents allowed sales of more than 2,000 guns to gun traffickers but then failed to keep track of most of them. Many turned up at crime scenes in Mexico, including two at the site where a U.S. border guard was killed.

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The ATF has run storefront stings in other cities, holding news conferences trumpeting results and showing off the guns and drugs seized. In Milwaukee, the operation has been kept quiet.

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Residents of the area, tucked between N. Humboldt Blvd. and the Milwaukee River, are angry the ATF secretly drew drug dealers and gun-toting felons to their neighborhood, which is rallying to improve.

And here's some more detail on the operation itself, for those who don't want to/can't click the link.

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When David Salkin put his single-story building on E. Meinecke Ave. up for rent on Craigslist, he had a choice: Lease to a church or Fearless Distributing.

He went with the upstart Fearless operation because they were willing to take all 8,000 square feet of the building and pay the $3,200 in monthly rent in cash.

The agent who signed the lease gave Salkin a fake name and home address. Fearless was not registered with the state. The agents told Salkin their operation was new and they would get to that.

The agents, wearing shirts that said "Brew City Hustle," carved out a part of the warehouse for a showroom of jeans, coats, shoes and purses along with bongs and fake urine, for those trying to beat a drug test. They also set up an office with a cash-counting machine.

They installed secret cameras and a command center where the sting would be run.

The operation created a Facebook page and chose a striking logo - a skull with a slew of guns and knives fanned out behind - ripped off from a recent Sylvester Stallone movie, "The Expendables." The store didn't say it was in the gun business but the logo suggested that.

Agents "let it be known" they were willing to buy guns and drugs, according to documents from the circuit court charges. The records don't say how they did that, but agents had business cards with the Fearless logo and the words "Buy, sell, or trade." The cards were found by the landlord after agents left.

Salkin, who previously ran his sign business from the building, was a first-time landlord. He said he saw little of the Fearless operation because they mostly kept him out. What he saw gave him suspicions. It looked to him like they were selling counterfeit goods. But the rent was coming in - a relief after months without a tenant.

As secretive as the ATF was with Salkin, there were hints of what was going on. Workers at the tannery across the street noticed people going into the store carrying packages and guns, then coming out empty-handed. Odd for a place that was supposed to be selling things, they thought.

Mike Zielinski, a UPS driver in the area, said he asked the people running the operation if they needed to get an account for deliveries. What they said puzzled him.

"They said they wouldn't be sending or getting anything. I thought that was odd because 'distributing' is in their name. Fearless Distributing," he said. "I was wondering, what kind of business is that."

They never sent or received anything via UPS in 10 months, Zielinski said.
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Offline chitoryu12

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2013, 11:39:55 pm »
Oh, the machine gun that got stolen? An ATF agent left all his guns in a lockbox in his SUV, including an M4 assault rifle. Got broken into and stolen, as well as a pair of pistols.
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Offline kefkaownsall

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2013, 12:40:39 am »
This is what happens when your organization doesn't have leadership. 

Offline chitoryu12

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2013, 01:44:23 am »
This is what happens when your organization doesn't have leadership.

Well, it DID have leadership: the NRA has pushed to keep a director from being appointed, but it's still had acting directors and Obama nominated the current acting director to become the full one.

That said, I think the problem is more in bad thinking than a lack of proper leadership. It was just a lot of people acting dumb.
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Offline Stormwarden

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2013, 01:54:45 am »
....what the fuck is this shit? FWIW, I was one of those who mentioned the huge drop in funding the ATF sustained. But this level of bungling? I'm as surprised by it as anyone else. The document they left behind? I really hope no other ops have been compromised because of that act of carelessness.

I'm hoping the rest of the alphabet soup agencies are paying attention to what happened here, and learn from it. This is incompetence on the worst level, the sort of thing you see when there's a breakdown in communications coupled with not thinking the plan all the way through. I want to see the recruits review this bungling and make damn sure they never commit it themselves.

On another note, I saw what actually goes on behind the scenes of firearms checks (serial number, owners, etc) on the local (WDTV Channel 5) news today, and they're stuck still using microfiche and paper receipts due to the 1986 law that prevents a federal computer database from coming into being. If it's urgent, they can still complete the check in about 24 hours. If not, it takes about five days. This in spite of having a constant stream of 1000 boxes a month of receipts coming in. So, in spite of it, at least the ATF does well in one area.


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Offline Lt. Fred

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2013, 03:40:13 am »
And the myth about Fast and Furious is repeated again. No, the agency didn't 'let' anyone buy guns. Mexican drug gangs legally straw-purchased firearms and the ATF tracked them. At no point was there a crime to charge them with.
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Offline chitoryu12

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2013, 04:57:55 am »
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Salkin, who previously ran his sign business from the building, was a first-time landlord. He said he saw little of the Fearless operation because they mostly kept him out. What he saw gave him suspicions. It looked to him like they were selling counterfeit goods. But the rent was coming in - a relief after months without a tenant.

As secretive as the ATF was with Salkin, there were hints of what was going on. Workers at the tannery across the street noticed people going into the store carrying packages and guns, then coming out empty-handed. Odd for a place that was supposed to be selling things, they thought.

The ATF's lucky that Salkin never revealed his suspicions to the local authorities. Wouldn't be the first time cops accidentally bust cops.

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And the myth about Fast and Furious is repeated again. No, the agency didn't 'let' anyone buy guns. Mexican drug gangs legally straw-purchased firearms and the ATF tracked them. At no point was there a crime to charge them with.

Well, they DID "let" them buy guns. The whole point of the operation was to allow for straw purchases to take place (straw purchases themselves are illegal, as the entire definition of "straw purchase" is purchasing the weapon to give to someone who's not legally allowed to do so themselves) and then track them to see where they went. It was a plot to try and uncover high-ranking cartel figures by tracing the guns. All that happened was 2000 guns in Fast And Furious alone were purchased and transported by gun traffickers, with less than half being recovered. The ATF was fully aware that over 300 of the guns had been found in crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, but they still argued among themselves and with federal prosecutors and never intervened.

It was a shitty plan from the start. The logic was that allowing cartel gunrunners to buy guns from stores in the United States would make it easier to track, and they could be led to high ranking leaders. Instead, hundreds disappeared off the radar. Over 300 didn't appear on the radar again until they were used to commit crimes. The only people they caught were a handful of small fries.

Operations like the ATF's gunwalking crap is what makes me so skeptical that mandatory gun registration will ever be useful in tracing guns and preventing crimes: even when they were specifically tracking those exact guns from the moment they left the store and knew that they were being passed around by criminals, they quickly dropped off the radar and got used in crimes. Not to mention that absolutely nothing prevents serial numbers and other identifying features from being removed, which immediately makes it nearly impossible to link the gun to anyone. I know the location of every single serial number on my Mosin-Nagant, as well as the marking showing the factory it was made in (Tula). They're not hard to find, either; most of them are already visible from a glance. Within a few minutes, I could have my rifle made completely untraceable. If it gets stolen or if I sell it to someone unscrupulous? It'll take them just as little effort.
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Offline Material Defender

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2013, 11:21:58 am »
So the ATF is essentially not evil, just fuck ups on the highest level.
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Offline chitoryu12

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2013, 11:56:01 pm »
So the ATF is essentially not evil, just fuck ups on the highest level.

It could have fucked up even worse. And yes, there ARE ways it could have gotten worse than just having tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise stolen, or a legitimate assault rifle (not the incorrect term ignorant legislators use for semi-automatic rifles, an actual burst-firing weapon that would ordinarily cost $20,000 and be nearly impossible to acquire) and two handguns being stolen and released somewhere on the black market. Like I said in my last post, the ATF was very lucky the landlord didn't bring in the cops to try and bust them. It was stupid that they tried to engage in a sting operation with the help of an unknowing civilian landlord. Obviously they couldn't really risk telling him about it, but that's exactly why the operation was a risk: they could either tell the landlord and risk him blowing their cover, or they could just pretend to really be criminals and do nothing to assuage his suspicions.

I think it would have been frankly poetic to see cops showing up and arresting all of the agents. You think any of the "employees" carried their identification on them? Or would they just scream that they're feds as they're being hauled into a car?
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Offline Lt. Fred

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2013, 12:17:16 am »
The ATF didn't 'let' anyone buy anything. Gun laws in Arizona are so weak that they never had a case to make.

The people who criticise the ATF in this case say with one breath- "why didn't you stop these people," and in the next say "don't let big government near our guns."

That's the real story: NRA allows Mexican drug leaders to buy, export firearms.
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Offline chitoryu12

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2013, 12:29:26 am »
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The ATF didn't 'let' anyone buy anything. Gun laws in Arizona are so weak that they never had a case to make.

Wrong. Arizona still bans straw purchases. Straw purchases are always difficult to prove even in countries with the most strict firearms laws and the penalties are rather minimal, but it's still illegal. The ATF DID allow people to buy them: it took them very little time to identify the buyers as gun traffickers or find that the guns were being given to criminals or the cartels. The mistake they made was allowing the guns to freely be moved around and used instead of grabbing them as soon as they could prove a case. They wanted to follow the guns to high ranking cartel members and leaders, but they just dropped off the radar rapidly and ended up disappearing entirely into the underworld or resurfacing after being used for a murder.

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That's the real story: NRA allows Mexican drug leaders to buy, export firearms.

Again, straw purchases are difficult to prove and it takes no effort at all to make guns untraceable to any party even with mandatory gun registration. How did the NRA allow anything to happen?
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Offline Lt. Fred

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2013, 01:19:23 am »
Ultimate Paragon admits to fabricating a hit piece on Politico.

http://fqa.digibase.ca/index.php?topic=6936.0

The party's name is the Democratic Party. It has been since 1830. Please spell correctly.

"The party must go wholly one way or wholly the other. It cannot face in both directions at the same time."
-FDR

Offline chitoryu12

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Re: ATF sting store turns into comedy film
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2013, 04:58:12 am »
Read the story:

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/28/fortune-reporter-fast-and-furious-the-fault-of-weak-laws-pushed-by-gun-lobby/

The story is bullshit. ATF didn't walk the guns, the NRA did.

It says that the agents couldn't seize the guns because of fights with prosecutors who didn't think that they had a case. I should point out that straw purchases for someone who cannot legally own a firearm are very much illegal: if the people the F&F purchasers gave the guns to were under 18 or had a felony on their record, it would have been a very rightful arrest of both participants in the transaction. Straw purchase laws are a FEDERAL matter, not state; the laws on the books give punishments for up to 10 years. The writer for Raw Story is BADLY misinterpreting the law, suggesting that it's legal in Arizona to hand off a gun to anybody and their kids.

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"ARS 13-3102, A, 5
A. A person commits misconduct involving weapons by knowingly:

5. Selling or transferring a deadly weapon to a prohibited possessor;"

There's the bit from the book itself.

It makes a vague claim that NRA lobbyists and Republicans are to blame for the laws, but provides no actual reasoning for this claim beyond going "They did it." Probably because the article writer's claim about Arizona law (as is this writer's claim) is completely made up.
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