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,” begins an investigative report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the latest Keystone Kops operation carried out by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). As you might expect from the agency that carried out the disastrous “Fast and Furious” gunrunning program along the Mexican border, the store was part of an elaborate sting aimed at getting guns off the streets. The agency arrested some 30 people on low-level criminal charges in conjunction with the operation, but in at least three cases the ATF seems to have identified the wrong suspect. In one case, they charged a man who was in prison during the time he was alleged to have been selling drugs to them. Not only that, he was in prison as a result of a prior arrest made by, yes, the ATF.
The ATF was paying such high prices for guns that at least one defendant, Courvoisie Bryant, was buying new guns at a nearby sporting goods store and selling them back to the ATF at a tidy profit. During the operation, three guns were stolen out of the back of an ATF SUV parked nearby—“a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun, a Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistol and an M-4 .223-caliber fully automatic rifle.” (Ammunition and an ATF radio were also stolen.) The very next day, Marquise Jones, 19, sold the Sig Sauer handgun back to the ATF for $1,400. Jones wasn’t arrested for another two months, and, perhaps to save face, none of the charges against him are related to the vehicle break-in. He’s merely charged with possession of a stolen handgun. Meanwhile, the other handgun and a fully automatic rifle are still loose on the streets of Milwaukee.
Finally this past October, four men were seen breaking into Fearless Distributing, walking away with $35,000 in taxpayer-purchased goods. The landlord, David Salkin, claims the ATF owes him $15,000 in lost rent, damage from the burglary and an overflowing toilet, and for exceeding their utility allotment. But the ATF agent who signed the lease gave him a fake name and address. After Salkin contacted the ATF to get them to pay up, ATF attorney Patricia Cangemi sent him an email saying, “If you continue to contact the Agents after being so advised your contacts may be construed as harassment under the law. Threats or harassment of a Federal Agent is of grave concern.”
The Scrapbook has low expectations for the ATF but was nonetheless a bit taken aback by this comment from Michael Bouchard, former assistant director for field operations for the agency. “I have never heard of those kinds of problems in an operation,” he told the Journal Sentinel. The Scrapbook wishes Bouchard a speedy recovery from the coma he must have been in for the last few years, during which it came to light that the ATF gave Mexican criminal gangs thousands of weapons as part of the botched Fast and Furious operation (named after a 2001 movie in which an undercover cop attempts to infiltrate a criminal ring).
But you know what they say—incompetent law enforcement agents who think they’re living out a bad action flick are doomed to repeat themselves. Notes the Journal Sentinel, “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.’ ”
If they keep it up, Congress might decide The Expendables is a fitting name for the ATF.