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(What's wrong with) Gun Stings

By Christopher Rice

May 10, 2007 from the Washington Post Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell is warning New York to stop, by the summer, sending private agents into Virginia to look for illegal gun sales, saying that the agents could face legal action.

Convinced that illegal gun sales in Virginia contribute to violent crime in his city, Bloomberg has been arming private investigators with hidden cameras and sending them into Virginia gun stores to try to make illegal buys.

Bloomberg says "he will continue to develop innovative and aggressive ways to keep New Yorkers safe."

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October 7, 2009 USA Today Private unlicensed gun dealers were captured on video selling weapons to undercover investigators who admitted they couldn't pass background checks in a sting operation by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to highlight the "gun show loophole."

The stings, described in a city report and documented on video released at City Hall on Wednesday, were conducted at seven gun shows in Tennessee, Ohio and Nevada. Those states are among the many that permit private unlicensed dealers, known as "occasional sellers," to sell weapons at gun shows without conducting background checks.

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The Bloomberg operation says 19 out of 30 sellers broke the law during the investigation, in which undercover investigators posing as buyers wore tiny cameras concealed in baseball hats and purses and audio recorders hidden in wristwatches.

In each purchase, the investigator showed interest in buying a gun, agreed on a price and then indicated that he probably could not pass a background check.

Most sellers allowed the purchases anyway, responding in some cases by saying, "I couldn't pass one either," or "I don't care," according to the videos.

Two assault rifles and 20 semiautomatic handguns were bought this way, the report said.

"What you just saw was willful disregard of the law, and it happened again and again and again," Bloomberg said, after showing several videos of those sales.

The National Rifle Association said Wednesday that Bloomberg's sting was nothing more than a publicity stunt.

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"If he was serious about curbing crime he would have cooperated with local law enforcement authorities instead of grandstanding at a press conference," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said.

The undercover operation took place from about May to August and its $1.5 million cost was paid by city taxpayers. The city hired a team of 40 private investigators from an outside firm to make the purchases.

The sting comes three years after Bloomberg's administration conducted a similar operation focusing on illegal straw purchases at gun shops in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia that authorities believe were responsible for selling guns used in crimes in New York City.

January 31, 2011 Associated Press Officials say a New York City undercover investigation at an Arizona gun show found that private sellers didn't always require background checks of buyers.

June 21, 2011 CSM Fast and Furious – not the movie franchise, but the US government’s ill-fated undercover gun-running operation targeting Mexican drug cartels – ended up putting more guns in the hands of criminals on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

It deepened a rift between the US and Mexico over weapons flowing south, caused a major scandal in the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which hatched the operation in 2009, and appears to have played a role in the murder of a US Border Patrol agent in 2010.

According to a report, released by Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Charles Schumer of New York, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, an ATF study of 2009 and 2010 crimes in Mexico involving firearms found that 70 percent of the traced weapons have a US source.

August 29, 2015 Felix Kumi was shot and killed by officers from the New York Police Department while chasing and firing at suspects targeted in an illegal weapons sting.

While talking to one of the suspects, a second suspect entered an undercover officer’s car and demanded money at gunpoint. “After the officer gave him cash, the suspect attempted to flee and the officer tried to stop him. When the suspect pointed his gun, the officer fired several times at the suspect, striking him three times in the torso,” according to Reuters.

The shot suspect survived, but the 61-year-old Kumi, who was standing near the area was also hit by the officer’s bullets. There are unconfirmed reports that Kumi was hit in the head and the torso. He died early Saturday morning at Jacobi hospital.

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Interestingly, the suspect in the sting operation had sold “numerous firearms” to the NYPD, but had not yet been arrested. The gun used to hold up the officer wasn’t even a real .45-caliber handgun, but rather a replica.

“Terrance Raynor, the Mount Vernon police commissioner, said that several vehicles had been struck by bullets during the shooting and that one had gone through the front door of a nearby home. An employee of a nearby business, Renzo Auto Body, said gunfire had come through its windows as well,” The New York Times reports. These bullets likely came from a second group of officers who also opened fire on the suspects, though none of them hit their targets.

NY Daily News  A 61-year-old bystander, shot when an NYPD undercover gun buy in Mount Vernon went horribly wrong, died of his wounds Saturday.

Kumi was hit twice in the midsection as an undercover cop with the NYPD’s Firearms Investigations Unit fired between 11 and 21 shots at 37-year-old Alvin Smothers, the man who set off the fateful chain of events by aiming a pistol to the cop’s head. Smothers was hit three times.

“Mr. Kumi was blameless, and this tragedy has tested and tried his family,” NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement Saturday. “I pray that they may find comfort in their hope of resurrection and awakening.”

Smothers, whose gun turned out to be a fake, had just robbed the cop of $2,400 the officer was planning to use to buy two firearms from seller Jeffrey Aristy, 28, sources said.

Replica gun recovered from suspect.

All of a sudden a few years ago there was a lot of attention to this problem of straw purchasers, the people with clean records that the traffickers send into the gun stores to make their purchases.

These stings pry sounded like a good idea. But as the innocent bodies pile up we need to ask ourselves, if there isn't a better way.

The type of stings being conducted today, not just guns and drugs but prostitutes, aluminum cans, card board, liquor sales and everything are sloppy police work at best and totally corrupt at it's worst.

America needs a top down overhaul of every police department and prison system in this country.   

Reverse Sting Operations-The American Hustle:

By: Michael Levine Relying on data taken from 45 years of professional experience as a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supervisory agent, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) expert on undercover and informant handling procedures, trial consultant, expert witness, and police instructor, the author details the evolution of the Reverse Sting operation and its related informant-handling practices, from a once valuable and effective investigative tool to a headline grabbing scam that has severely damaged our system of justice by obliterating the entrapment defense and turning the Reverse Sting into a way to make money for criminal informants.

The headline of the ABC News Report read, "How Undercover Cops Make Millions Selling Cocaine" (Gutman, Brady, & Smith, 2013). The article, part of a series, pointed out that the Reverse Sting tactic as employed by the Sunrise, Florida, Police was a financial windfall for this small suburban city. For years, undercover officers of this tiny department, which served a population of 85,000, had been posing as drug dealers and using criminal informants (CIs) to lure potential buyers from all over the country to come to their city with wads of cash, from pockets to suitcases full, to buy drugs from the undercover cops.

If the Reverse Sting was successful, the buyer would be handed the drugs, relieved of his cash, and busted. He'd be charged with Possession, Conspiracy to Possess, and Possession with Intent to Distribute-charges that carried a potential of many decades in prison if convicted. The cash would go into the coffers of the city, and the CIs would receive large cash awards usually based upon the amount of assets seized and/or the "media value" (headlines) the case garnered. One of them received more than $800,000. And the Sunrise cops didn't do so badly either. The sergeant running the operation made $240,000 in overtime during a three-year period. With the publication of this series of articles, the City of Sunrise shut down the operation. If you are wondering why, read on.

The article offered a brief but much too simplistic peek into a police procedure that is little understood by the administration levels of most of the law enforcement agencies that employ it, the prosecutors and judges who try to enforce it honestly, and the lawyers that are tasked to defend some of its victims.

The trouble with this series is that, like most reporting on this tactic, it only scratches the surface of its dark side. It fails to even touch on how the bastardization of this once legitimate undercover tactic has turned America's law enforcement agencies into fire departments that start their own fires, severely damaging our system of justice by obliterating even the notion of entrapment as a defense and turning it into a cash cow for CIs. And worse, the tactic has created a safe haven for the most inept and/or corrupt of law enforcement officers and prosecutors while at the same time causing a massive nationwide misdirection of resources and manpower resulting in significant damage to our national security, and it is only getting worse.

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Typical of the usual media reporting associated with Reverse Sting operations, the series also failed to reveal how the tactic has now been bastardized to widespread misuse in just about every crime known to man, from conspiracy charges related to acts of terror, homicide, and weapons trafficking, to pedophilia, prostitution, and every commercial crime on the books. Most importantly, it failed in identifying the specific police procedures and standards that are often violated in the misuse of this technique.

To understand what I mean when I say "bastardization" and "misuse," I invite readers, in particular those in law enforcement and the legal profession, to first experience the evolution of the Reverse Sting and its concurrent destruction of the entrapment defense through my personal involvement with it from its inception when I took part in the very first reverse sting ever authorized by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to the current cases that I am party to as a trial consultant and police instructor (see "Michael Levine," 2014). The controls that the DOJ always used and/or counted upon to prevent the misuse of the Reverse Sting operation, based upon the obvious dangers of CIs entrapping victims into its snare, have vanished. There is no better case to use as an illustration of how the entrapment defense has gone missing than U.S. v. Jorge Olmos (Goddard, 1998).

U.S. v Jorge Olmos. . .Continue to read rest of article (PDF).

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