ATF’s 5,000 employees enforce federal criminal laws and regulate the firearms and explosives industries. ATF investigates violent crimes involving firearms and explosives, acts of arson, and illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products. ATF also provides training and support to its federal, state, local, and international law enforcement partners and works in 25 field divisions with representation throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Foreign offices are located in Mexico, Canada, Colombia, and representatives in France, the Netherlands, Iraq, and El Salvador.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 243 complaints involving ATF personnel. The most common allegations made against ATF employees were waste; misuse of government property; theft; and job performance failure. The majority of the complaints were considered management issues and were provided to ATF for its review and appropriate action.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 10 open criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct related to ATF employees. The criminal investigations include waste, misuse of government property, and theft. The following are examples of cases involving ATF that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- An investigation by the OIG’s Dallas Field Office and the FBI resulted in the arrest of an ATF special agent pursuant to an indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana; possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute; possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense; and money laundering. The investigation revealed that the special agent and several Tulsa police officers engaged in criminal activities in which they planted drug evidence on suspects, stole drugs and money from suspects, coerced individuals to distribute stolen drugs, split the proceeds from their illegal activities, and testified falsely in court. The ATF special agent pled guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and awaits sentencing. The special agent resigned from ATF as a result of our investigation.
- An investigation by the OIG’s Dallas Field Office, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and ATF’s Internal Affairs Division led to the arrest and guilty plea of an ATF special agent for making false statements in connection with a series of fraudulent visa referrals. The investigation revealed that the special agent, while serving as an ATF Assistant Country Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, fraudulently referred several Mexican nationals to an ATF program that expedited visa processing for persons whose travel to the United States would advance the national interest of the United States. The special agent was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to two years’ probation and fined $1,000, and he retired from the ATF as a result of this investigation.
ATF’s Project Gunrunner
The OIG is reviewing the implementation of Project Gunrunner, ATF’s national initiative to combat firearms trafficking to Mexico and associated violence along the Southwest border.
The OIG is reviewing ATF’s federal firearms licensee inspection program. After an OIG review in 2004, ATF made a series of changes to that program and its administrative action process. This review is assessing the changes made to the program, ATF’s process for inspecting licensed firearms dealers, the process for referring suspected criminal violations, and how ATF institutes administrative actions on licensed dealers that violate federal firearms laws and regulations.
ATF’s National Response Team
The OIG is evaluating the use, management, and effectiveness of ATF’s National Response Team, which assists federal, state, and local investigators at the scenes of significant fire and explosives incidents.