A new watchdog report revealed this week that U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has conducted dozens of unauthorized undercover investigations into illicit cigarette sales, misused $162 million in profits, and lost track of at least 420 million cigarettes.
The investigation covered operations and records between 2006 and 2011. The most disturbing allegation is the use of “churning investigations,” operations used to pay for ATF expenses.
Also detailed in the report is that ATF officials allowed a tobacco distributor (who was a confidential informant) to keep $4.9 million in profits from cigarette sales to criminal suspects. Those missing 420 million cigarettes were worth $127 million.
Yet, there is no reference to criminal investigations or a single act of discipline. Indeed, the assumption appears to be that any such missing money or property had to be innocent. This all could very well be innocent but the amount of misused money or missing cigarettes is staggering. ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun however insisted “only 447,218 cartons that were not reconciled because of insufficient documentation.” Only 447,218 cartons? Is that the standard for the ATF, keep missing property below half a million items? That short of sounds like “well, its close enough for jazz . . . or the ATF.”