Unbelievable: ATF Using Mentally Disabled Teens to Run Drug-and-Gun Stings


Hat tip: Instapundit.

If you thought the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) couldn't stoop any lower, you'd be wrong. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the agency responsible for setting off the events that led to Waco and were at the center of the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal are using mentally disabled teenagers to advertise businessess that are actually fronts for ATF sting operations.

The Journal Sentinel's expose leads with the tale of Aaron Key, a 19-year-old stoner whose mind is not quite all there. The ower of a head shop in Portland, Oregon, befriended Key and his friends online and then paid them to get neck tattoos advertising "Squid's Smoke Shop."

He and his friend, Marquis Glover, liked Squid's. It was their hangout. The 19-year-olds spent many afternoons there playing Xbox and chatting with the owner, "Squid," and the store clerks.

So they took the money and got the ink etched on their necks, tentacles creeping down to their collarbones.

It would be months before the young men learned the whole thing was a setup. The guys running Squid's were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.

The tattoos had been sponsored by the U.S. government; advertisements for a fake storefront.

The teens found out as they were arrested and booked into jail.

Earlier this year, when the Journal Sentinel reported on an ATF sting operation in Milwaukee involving a "low IQ" informant, authorities wrote it off as an isolated act of rogue agents. The Journal Sentinel documents at least half-a-dozen stings from around the country that use the same "rogue" tactics of creating fake storefronts and using low IQ people to set stings in cities such as Pensacola, Florida, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Wichita, Kansas.

"There is enough crime out there, why do you have to manufacture it?" said Jeff Griffith, a lawyer for a defendant in Wichita. "You are really creating crime, which then you are prosecuting. You wonder where the moral high ground is in this."

Apart from the moral issues (which are huge enough), there's a question of whether such operations are worth a damn in terms of serious collars:

In Albuquerque, for example, a man who was twice indicted on first-degree murder charges, once for killing a man in prison, was later busted in a storefront sting for being a felon in possession of weapon.

But in many cases examined by the Journal Sentinel, the people charged in the stings had minor criminal histories or nonviolent convictions such as burglary or drug possession.

In several of those cases, defendants still got stiff sentences, but others resulted in little or no punishment. In Wichita, nearly a third of the roughly 50 federal cases charged led to no prison time. Defendants got probation or had their case dismissed, records showed. One was acquitted by a jury.

Not the results federal agents typically trumpet.

In the case of Aaron Key and Marquis Glover, the judge handling the cases was puzzled over the ATF's decision to cajole the teens (who were ultimately convicted of crimes that were enabled by the government) into getting tattoos.

In federal court, a prosecutor who handled several of the ATF cases, including Key's, tried to explain to a judge why the agents employed the tactic.

The agents said they thought Key and Glover were testing them to see if they were law enforcement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin said in a January 2012 sentencing hearing.

Key and Glover supposedly did this by suggesting they all smoke marijuana.

Kerin said the agents then proposed Key and Glover get tattoos as a way to get them off their trail.

The explanation didn't make sense to U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman, a former federal prosecutor.

"I guess I don't make the connection," Mosman said. "They're concerned that if, among other things, they don't smoke marijuana with this guy that they'll be given up as law enforcement, so they think a way to derail that is to suggest that he get a tattoo?"

Kerin tried again to explain.

"Mr. Key and Mr. Glover were trying to identify them as law enforcement or possibly testing to determine if they were law enforcement."

The judge cut in: "I think I understand that part. I just don't understand why you put someone off your trail by suggesting they get a tattoo. How does that help?"

The judge ordered the ATF to pay for the removal of Key's tattoo.

Read the whole story, which details both how the ATF sets up fake businessess and the paltry results such efforts get in terms of doing anything about fighting criminal activity. And then ask yourself (and maybe your law enforcement and political representatives) just how bad does the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have to be before it's finally disbanded?

Hat tip: Instapundit.

For more Reason on ATF failings, click here.

Reminder: Gallup finds a record-high percentage of Americans (60 percent), especially those who identify as political independents (65 percent), think the government has too much power. Any questions?

Back in October, Reason TV reported on how Riverside County, California cops tricked an autistic kid into selling pot as part of a sting operation.

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  1. They should have all been in prison, yesterday.

  2. [Pretending to like retarded kids]

    " Those goofy bastards are about the best thing I've got going. "

  3. Unbelievable:

    Is it, though? Is it really?

    1. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

  4. Entrapping retards. Classy.

    1. Retards trapping retards.

  5. Gawker commenters lick the boot and love the taste.

    djf881Ujordan sargent231L
    1.) Cops are the way they are because of the job we ask them to do. A segment of our population is dangerous and terrifying, and police have to control and contain those people.

    The reason cops act the way they act is that the people they spend most of their time dealing with are awful. Because they regularly deal with irrational and violent people, they assume they are in danger during any interaction.

    Because there are three hundred million guns in civilian hands in the United States police have to assume everyone they deal with is armed and dangerous. Any cop would rather shoot someone they erroneously believed was armed than get shot by someone they erroneously believed was not.

    1. Any cop would rather shoot someone they erroneously believed was armed than get shot by someone they erroneously believed was not.

      Can't argue with them there. Of course Gawker might want to consider that perhaps we pay cops and train them so they can be the opposite of that.

      1. Perhaps Gawker might want to consider that the "someone" that gets shot might be them. Doing nothing wrong. I'm sure they'd be perfectly OK with that, right?

        1. If some trigger happy cop shoots you, it is all the NRA and the Tea Baggers' fault. If people don't want to do what the collective tells them...

        2. Gawker commenters are almost all white, suburban kids filled with liberal guilt, but racist enough to think that it can never happen to them.

        3. "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" is no longer canon after the South Carolina zealots rejected it's authenticity in 2012.

      2. Cops are trained to go home safely. Nothing else matters.

        1. No they are not. Cops do that. They are not trained to do that. They are trained to do the opposite. They just don't follow their training and don't have to because they can't be fired and are almost never charged with a crime.

          1. I don't believe for a second that self-preservation at the cost of pepper-spraying/batoning/tazing/gunning down one or more innocents doesn't figure into their training.

          2. They're trained to start shooting the second they feel in danger, with the knowledge that the entire "justice" system is there to justify their actions.

            1. I do cop training. And that is just not true. The fact that they are trained to do the opposite is how departments get away with them shooting people so often.

              1. I'm talking about on-the-job training. That silly stuff in classes doesn't matter.

              2. So why then since the advent of the DHS, are most police officers and agencies in the United States taught a Circular Continuum of Force model rather than a Vertical Escalation of Force model?

    2. armed and dangerous

      I love how those two things are always assumed to overlap.

  6. The whole idea of setting up a fake gun shop to catch criminals is absurd. Criminals buy guns from each other. No one is going to buy a gun to use in a crime from a gun shop.

    1. You know I keep trying to tell progressives this when it comes to background checks, but for whatever reason it doesn't sink in.

  7. Tax dollars at work....Nice

  8. I skimmed the article, but can't find a dollar amount for the neck tattoos. That would be a great addition to those government waste lists.

    485. $700 Hammer
    486. Bridge to Nowhere
    487. Cowboy Poetry Festivals
    488. Neck Tats for 'Tards


  9. "Surprising" ain't the right word, Nick.

    1. Nor is "unbelievable."

  10. Scum. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I thought it was the GOP who hated, well, everyone.

    1. Well, the GOP is the pro-LEOest of the pro-LEOs, except possibly for progressives when they hold court.

      1. The progs can't make the connection between draconian yet vague laws and police abuse. Pathetic but...pathetic.

    2. Hmm. Well, I didn't used to hate everyone, and then I joined the GOP in 2007 for Ron Paul. Now I do hate everyone. So you may actually be on to something there. :-p

  11. Are head shops the center of the nation's illegal gun trade? The entire concept operation seems to be a boondoggle, not that I expect anything less.

    And another thing, why would the agents suspect some super-spy intrigue when a couple of half-wit potheads suggest to the owner of a head shop that they all burn one together?

    1. No shit. I've known stoners. They suggest getting high to pretty much everyone. Let alone people they "know" are in the scene. As the owner of a head shop presumably would be.

      That's not "I'm testing to see if they're cops!", that's "I'm being friendly".

      I don't think the teens were the only mentally disabled people involved here.

  12. "You wonder where the moral high ground is in this."

    Through its entire existence the one thing you have been able to count of about the ATF is that wherever the moral high ground may be, they will be elsewhere.

  13. The guys running Squid's were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.
    live out their depraved, sadistic fantasies of thug life while completely immunized from any adverse consequences.

  14. You wonder where the moral high ground is in this.

    They work for the government! By definition they are moral and upstanding, and they are here to help us, and to make America a better place.

  15. Honestly though, retarded teenagers probably seem like geniuses to a federal employee. Of course you also have the entrapment and the wasting of our money on petty, victimless bullshit.

  16. Badger and Skinny Pete also had this to say about the sting, "the whole thing felt kinda shady, like morality wise," as they were arraigned.

  17. And then ask yourself (and maybe your law enforcement and political representatives) just how bad does the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have to be before it's finally disbanded?

    Ha! The more they fuck up, the bigger their budget gets!

    As long as keep pulling stunts like this, they'll never get disbanded. But they may have to hire some creative staff to figure out how to squander their budgets in more ridiculous ways.

  18. Once again we see the BATFE abusing its authority and it has been running wild under the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and his Social Justice Dept and DHS...this is yet another case of harassing legal businesses. Legal businesses that the AGUSA/aka head of the Social Justice Dept and the resident of 1600 Penn Ave detest...so they send out the wolves to harass and close them down on nebulous charges

  19. It isn't enough of a stigma to have a cognitive disability. Drug-related neck tattoos are required to further marginalize these folks.

  20. This is just so wrong on so many levels, it's repulsive. This is a criminal enterprize, and a domestic terroris organization. This is it, the damn government has to go. Every single one belongs in prison, for life and the ring leaders deserve the death penalty. If you wait until this happens to you, it'll be too late to do anything.

  21. the next headline will be "autistic kid shoots up school".

  22. Why do we continue to call these people "agents" or "special agents" or "officers"? They're freak'n schlub employees just like anyone else.

    Let's stop with the ego-pumping labels.

  23. Hey now, those brave men and women put their lives on the line every single day! It takes an especially strong will to hang out in headshops with volatile drug users all day and not die of laughter at your own self-righteous idiocy. Full-time job, people, respect it.

  24. The whole idea of setting up a fake gun shop to catch criminals is absurd. Criminals buy guns from each other. No one is going to buy a gun to use in a crime from a gun shop.

  25. Update from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12/11/13
    In one case, Bryant bought a rifle for $700 from Gander Mountain that was sold for $2,000 just hours later to agents running the fake Fearless Distributing shop.

    Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/watchd.....z2nHD6op2p
    Follow us: @JournalSentinel on Twitter

    For that kind of money I'd be there twice a week.

  26. They've always used the low IQ. Now they're just younger.

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