ATF Lost $127M in Cigs in Unapproved Stings

Due to 'serious lack of oversight,' says Justice Department report
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2013 7:40 AM CDT
In this June 11, 2013 photo, B. Todd Jones, President Barack Obama's then-nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
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(Newser) – Apparently firearms aren't all that go missing over at the ATF: a Justice Department report says feds lost track of some 2.1 million packs of cigarettes, worth $127 million, from at least 20 undercover and unapproved stings between 2005 and 2011, the Washington Post reports. The $162 million garnered from the illegal transactions, or "churning investigations," was used to offset the bureau's expenses as is allowed, but in one case, an informant kept $4.9 million of a $5.2 million payout without submitting proper paperwork. Even worse: none of the cases were approved by the ATF's Undercover Review Committee—it mysteriously didn't meet for almost seven years.

Though not mentioned in the report, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel details one 2011 sting where a pallet of cigarettes was left behind, and thieves swiped two cases of smokes worth about $10,000. The report cited "a serious lack of oversight," plus funds spent in "improper, unnecessary, and unreasonable" ways, but the ATF has come out swinging. A rep says the bureau's own "more thorough" audit shows just 447,218 cartons missing, and it has updated its policies to address the report's concerns. But for some, the "disappointing report reiterates what we already know—that ATF management continues to struggle with its day-to-day operations," says Darrell Issa, who calls the report "unfathomable."

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