US: ATF misplaced 420 million cigarettes in stings

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department’s internal watchdog says the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives mounted dozens of undercover investigations into illicit cigarette sales without proper approval. It says the agency misused some of $162 million in profits from the stings — including overpaying an informant by millions of dollars — and lost track of at least 420 million cigarettes.

The ATF’s new director, B. Todd Jones, said the audit covered only selected ATF investigations between 2006 and 2011, and that the agency had tightened its internal guidelines since then.

The report cited a widespread lack of ATF oversight in the agency’s use of “churning investigations,” undercover operations using proceeds from illicit cigarette sales to pay for ATF expenses.

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