Criminal Justice

ATF Operation Ripped Off, Rips Off Landlord

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The Journal-Sentinel reports on the unraveling of an ATF sting operation in Milwaukee that resulted in no high-profile arrests, angry neighbors, and a trashed warehouse. Undercover agents bought drugs, weapons, and stolen goods at a rented warehouse last year—until robbers made off with the inventory.

From the Journal-Sentinel:

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….

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.

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.

Most of those charged live elsewhere in the city, and residents are angry that the ATF purposely lured a criminal element into the neighborhood.

The whole article is here. Be sure to click through the accompanying documents, which include a grammatically challenged email from an ATF lawyer threatening the landlord for having the gall to contact agents "utilizing a telephone or computer," which "may be construed as harassment under the law."

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