ATF just lost track of 420 million cigarettes
posted at 3:05 pm on September 25, 2013 by Katie Pavlich
ATF is really good at losing things. In 2010, they lost 2500 guns (AK-47s, .50 cal rifles) in Mexico and 1400 of them are still missing. Those guns are regularly being used to kill people. Earlier this year, ATF lost a machine gun on the streets of Milwaukee. Yes, a machine gun. And now, ATF has lost 420 million cigarettes.
Government agents acting without authorization conducted dozens of undercover investigations of illegal tobacco sales, misused some of $162 million in profits from the stings and lost track of at least 420 million cigarettes, the Justice Department’s inspector general said Wednesday.
In one case, ATF agents sold $15 million in cigarettes and later turned over $4.9 million in profits from the sales to a confidential informant — even though the agency did not properly account for the transaction.
Reviewing three-dozen ATF undercover cigarette stings between 2006 and 2011, the inspector general found that none of those income-generating probes had been given proper prior approval by an internal ATF review committee, as required by agency policy.
One of those sting operations did not have any approval, either from the ATF or the Justice Department. In that 2009 case, ATF officials allowed a tobacco distributor working as an ATF confidential informant to keep $4.9 million in profits from cigarette sales to criminal suspects. ATF officials justified the move by explaining the $4.9 million covered the informant’s expenses. But the inspector general said the agency failed to “require the informant to provide adequate documentation to support or justify those expenses.”
The remaining profits were used by agency officials to pay for a separate ATF cigarette smuggling sting — which the inspector general said violated ATF rules that profits from a “churning investigation” could only be used to fund that specific operation, not other cases.
The inspector general said shoddy documentation and inventory controls made it impossible to account for more than 2.1 million cartons of cigarettes — totaling 420 million cigarettes — during at least 20 separate ATF sting operations. The watchdog estimated the retail value of those items at $127 million.
Is losing millions of cigarettes pretty harmless? Sure, especially compared to guns, but c’mon man! Not to mention the huge abuse of money from profits.