An internal audit shows that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was incompetently (or, you know, intentionally) tossing out money and cigarettes left and right. CBS reports:
The Justice Department's internal watchdog says the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives mounted dozens of undercover investigations into illicit cigarette sales without proper approval. It says the agency misused some of $162 million in profits from the stings—including overpaying an informant by millions of dollars—and lost track of at least 420 million cigarettes.
The ATF's new director, B. Todd Jones, said the audit covered only selected ATF investigations between 2006 and 2011, and that the agency had tightened its internal guidelines since then.
The report cited a widespread lack of ATF oversight in the agency's use of "churning investigations," undercover operations using proceeds from illicit cigarette sales to pay for ATF expenses.
Unfortunately, CBS could barely show any interest or even challenge the idea that anybody actually "lost track" of anything before switching gears to allow the ATF to take control of the messaging again to complain about smuggling and demonstrate the failure to grasp black markets that have developed as a consequence of ludicrously high taxes:
"This is becoming the new organized crime, the new Prohibition," said ATF agent Rich Marianos. "Every day we see more and more criminal organizations utilizing illegal cigarettes to facilitate their operations."
In one sting, members of a Philadelphia street crew traded a bundle of marijuana for cartons of cigarettes to undercover agents posing as dealers.
The U.S. Justice Department estimates state and local governments are losing $5 billion per year from untaxed cigarettes being sold on the black market. Police know they're only catching a fraction of the smugglers.
Weak laws are big part of the problem. Unless guns or drugs are involved, smuggling penalties are light.
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