MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Federal agents lacked proper guidance and experience while conducting undercover sting operations in Milwaukee and several other cities that were aimed at disrupting illegal gun sales, according to a U.S. Justice Department report released Thursday.
The Justice Department’s inspector general’s office report examined shortcomings with U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ storefront sting operations in Milwaukee; Pensacola, Florida; St. Louis; Wichita, Kansas; and Boston. The operations were designed to curb illegal gun trafficking by luring people with illegal weapons into the store, where agents could identify them, buy their guns to get the weapons off the street and trace the guns’ histories. According to the report, the ATF established 53 storefront operations throughout the country between 2004 and 2013.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an expose in 2013 detailing some of the problems with the storefront operation conducted in that city. It found that agents overpaid for guns with taxpayer money, that guns were stolen from an ATF vehicle and that the storefront was burglarized. What’s more, agents left behind an operational plan at the store when they shut it down. The document included undercover agents’ names, vehicle descriptions, cellphone numbers and secret signals.
Most defendants were charged with low-level offenses and the operation failed to capture any major criminals.