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The VA Corruption Scandal You Haven’t Heard Of


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG.

 

Here is some information and my rules:

1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

 

2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

 

3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

 

4) I welcome input from all walks of life.

 

However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”.

 

However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives.

 

Thank you for visiting!

 

Reblogged from:http://www.westernjournalism.com

 

Posted by:MIKE SUHOR

What if I told you that the requests for information from a Congressional Oversight committee were being repeatedly ignored by a member of Obama’s administration?

What if I told you that this has been going on for months on an almost daily routine, and that the head of this congressional committee had to resort to a subpoena to get any responses to his questions?

What if I told you that millions of dollars had been spent wastefully by this department for lavish conventions, where the attendees celebrated as if they were on a vacation, with gifts, helicopter rides, and services paid for with taxpayer money?

What if I told you that this department has ignored Congressional investigations into the deaths of Americans in the care of this department?

What if I told you that those responsible for the waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and deaths of Americans in their care were given bonuses and allowed to retire on lavish pensions instead of answering the hard questions before Congress?

If you are thinking that it should be a scandal of epic proportions, you’d be right.

Except that it isn’t because you aren’t really being told about it until now.

The Department, of course, if you haven’t guessed it already, is the Veterans Affairs Department.

There is truly nothing sadder in my eyes than having to resort to British Newspapers to get news about our VA:

A former assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs pleaded the Fifth on Wednesday, refusing to testify about a pair of taxpayer-funded human resources conferences in 2011 that cost a scandalous $6.1 million or more.

John Sepulveda oversaw the conferences, which included the screening of a parody video based on ‘Patton,’ whose production cost the Treasury more than $52,000.

But in front of the House Oversight Committee, he chose to remain silent; taking advantage of a clause in the U.S. Constitution intended to protect citizens from incriminating themselves.

‘You are not excused,’ committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa ultimately told Sepulveda before sending him away. ‘You are dismissed.’

Sadly, it gets worse. This was just the loss of a whole lot of money by the VA on what was nothing more than paid vacations to Orlando for VA human resources staff complete with Karaoke, Massages, and a pathetic and insulting imitation of General George S. Patton, which can only be seen to be believed:

There is still the deaths of veterans from wretched care to be discussed.

Examples of the department’s lack of accountability are numerous. But almost as plentiful — and even more shameful — are the many cases where VA employees and executives are being rewarded rather than punished for their incompetence.

Officials with the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System have botched the handling of a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at nearly every turn. Five veterans are now dead from the pneumonia-like disease. But instead of giving those who failed to prevent the outbreak pink slips, VA gave them glowing performance reviews and huge bonuses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 21 veterans were sickened between February 2011 and November 2012, but that didn’t stop VA Pittsburgh Director Terry Gerigk Wolf from receiving the highest possible score on a VA performance review covering the bulk of the outbreak period.

Shockingly, Wolf’s review makes no mention of the outbreak, and instead praises her for leading a “groundbreaking Civility Initiative” and helping improve her employees’ resume-writing skills.

Memories of the outbreak seem to have eluded VA officials again when they nominated Wolf’s boss, VA regional director Michael Moreland, for the Presidential Rank Award, America’s highest civil-service accolade. For Moreland, the honor included a whopping $62,895 bonus, which he formally accepted just three days after VA’s inspector general reported VA Pittsburgh’s response to the outbreak was plagued by persistent mismanagement.

Most people would find VA’s celebration of Wolf and Moreland in the aftermath of a deadly outbreak they were too incompetent to stop hard to believe.

Amazingly, this expose of the VA didn’t come from a “trained Journalist,” but instead came directly from the pen of Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Click here to read just one of the many letters that Rep. Miller has sent to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. This particular one is asking why The VA spent a million dollars on TV commercials in and around the DC area during the World Series.

Here is the video in question:

Vet Burial

And click here to read Rep. Miller’s letter to President Obama on the lack of responses from the VA.

“Grave concerns” is a term not used lightly in government; it is political speech for “Hey Dummy, you are screwing the pooch on this, and there will be an investigation.”

Even the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has become involved, and yet it takes an actual subpoena before The VA responds to any request for information from Committees of Congress.

There is something seriously wrong with the VA these days, even more than the usual obstacle course our Vets have to endure to get treatment. It is almost as if Obama wants to force vets into Obamacare.

Actually, he does and is willing to triple healthcare fees Vets pay to do it.

Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/told/#vjBCBPGXqkzfsK8Z.99

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Obamacare: Highly Compensated Individuals & the Second Amendment


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG.

 

Here is some information and my rules:

1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

 

2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

 

3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

 

4) I welcome input from all walks of life.

 

However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”.

 

However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives.

 

Thank you for visiting!

 

Reblogged from:http://freedomoutpost.com

 

Posted by:Sid Wolf

gun

“Prohibition on Discrimination in Favor of Highly Compensated Individuals” is a section found in Obamacare. Within in it is a sub-section protecting Second Amendment gun rights, with respect to wellness and prevention programs. The language appears, on the face, to prohibit the use of any data collection with regard to the ”the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition; or the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm or ammunition.” However, does this section really provide adequate protection for gun owners, and more specifically our veterans?

The Section reads as follows:

SEC. 2716. PROHIBITION ON DISCRIMINATION IN FAVOR OF HIGHLY COMPENSATED INDIVIDUALS.

(a) IN GENERAL.—A group health plan (other than a self-insured plan) shall satisfy the requirements of section 105(h) (2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to prohibition on discrimination in favor of highly compensated individuals).

(b) RULES AND DEFINITIONS.—For purposes of this section—

(1) CERTAIN RULES TO APPLY.—Rules similar to the rules contained in paragraphs (3), (4), and (8) of section 105(h) of such Code shall apply.

(2) HIGHLY COMPENSATED INDIVIDUAL.—The term ‘highly compensated individual’ has the meaning given such term by section 105(h)(5) of such Code.”.

(e) Section 2717 of the Public Health Service Act, as added by section 1001(5) of this Act, is amended—

(1) by redesignating subsections (c) and (d) as subsections

(d) and (e), respectively; and

(2) by inserting after subsection (b), the following:

(c) PROTECTION OF SECOND AMENDMENT GUN RIGHTS.—

(1) WELLNESS AND PREVENTION PROGRAMS.—A wellness and health promotion activity implemented under subsection (a)(1)(D) may not require the disclosure or collection of any information relating to—

(A) the presence or storage of a lawfully-possessed firearm or ammunition in the residence or on the property of an individual; or

(B) the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm or ammunition by an individual.

(2) LIMITATION ON DATA COLLECTION.—None of the authorities provided to the Secretary under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act shall be construed to authorize or may be used for the collection of any information relating to—

(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition;

(B) the lawful use of a firearm or ammunition; or

(C) the lawful storage of a firearm or ammunition.

(3) LIMITATION ON DATABASES OR DATA BANKS.—None of the authorities provided to the Secretary under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act shall be construed to authorize or may be used to maintain records of individual ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition.

(4) LIMITATION ON DETERMINATION OF PREMIUM RATES OR ELIGIBILITY FOR HEALTH INSURANCE.—A premium rate may not be increased, health insurance coverage may not be denied, and a discount, rebate, or reward offered for participation in a wellness program may not be reduced or withheld under any health benefit plan issued pursuant to or in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act on the basis of, or on reliance upon—

(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition; or

(B) the lawful use or storage of a firearm or ammunition.

(5) LIMITATION ON DATA COLLECTION REQUIREMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS.—No individual shall be required to disclose any information under any data collection activity authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or an amendment made by that Act relating to—

(A) the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition; or

(B) the lawful use, possession, or storage of a firearm or ammunition.

To imply that the healthcare database would not be used in any database is to ignore history and an earlier Executive Order: a) Action #2 Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system and b) Action #16 Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, Public Law 103-159 basically requires the Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) to request background checks on prospective firearm transferees and that the US Attorney General establish the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Under this law some military veterans are being denied their right to own a gun ….not for any crimes committed, but because of psychiatric determinations or evaluations based on issues related to PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome).

Here are just a few reasons, under the Brady Law, where an individual can be denied, when undergoing a background check: a) 18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (3) Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance; b) 18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (4) Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution; and c) 18 U.S.C. §922 (g) (6) Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions.

Given the above, one conclusion can be drawn –”It does not prohibit the use of a database to determine who has a psychological ‘disorder’ like ADHD or PTSD. And it does not prohibit the ATF from trolling the database for persons with these disorders (independent of any issue of gun ownership) — and sending their names to the FBI’s database of prohibited persons because of any of the reasons stated above under 18 USC §922 (g). Further, HIPAA would not prohibit this ‘law enforcement function,’ and Obamacare has significantly broaden the list of people whose determination is an ‘official’ determination similar to the VA psychiatrists who have disarmed approximately 150,000 veterans.”

Everyone goes to the doctor for one reason or another, so under this law and the Executive Order issued by this administration, questions about guns in the home will be asked of literally every individual in the nation and not just those with “mental health issues.” Kris Zane rightly asks, “What about post-partum depression or other ‘depressive’ disorders? This and PTSD could be easily—but falsely—’proved’ or be temporary issue. What about a child who tells the doctor that mom and dad have been arguing? Would this be considered a ‘mental health’ issue because at any one time any one of us could be categorized as being ‘depressed going through a difficult time in our lives?’”

What has not been discussed in the media is the reference to Section 105(h) of the IRS code and ramifications for employers as well as employees regarding health insurance and compliance.

There are other sections in Obamacare that reference and require fully-insured plans which lose “grandfathered” status comply with the requirements of section 105(h)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

According to a memo from Davis & Harman LLP, titled “New Nondicrimination Requirements for Insured Group Health Plans,” the rules “prohibit health plans from discriminating in favor of “highly compensated individuals.” These rules already apply to self-funded plans, but will now apply to fully-insured plans, which have lost grandfathered status, which went into effect on the first plan year beginning after September 23, 2010.

“The penalty for an employer who sponsors a fully-insured plan which violates these rules is severe,” the memo continues. “They would be liable for an excise tax of up to $100 per day per employee ‘discriminated against.’ Below explains some of the rules and what must be done to make sure their benefits, eligibility, and contribution structure are in compliance.”

Suppose a “highly compensated individual” is promised benefits for life under a self-funded health care plan and he incurs $100,000 of medical costs in connection with an illness. The $100,000 of benefits will be taxable income under Section 105(h). Most lawyers warn organizations that self-insured plans should not create exclusive eligibility rules only for higher-ranking executives in connection with retirements or separation of employment. Under Section 105(h) only highly compensated individuals are subject to the above adverse tax consequences. However, most of these individuals comprise roughly 25% of the workforce, and are usually an employer’s most senior and vital employees.

Section 105(h) defines“Highly compensated individuals (HCI or HCE)” as individuals who are:

  1. one of the 5 highest paid officers,
  2. a shareholder who owns (with the application of section 318) more than 10 percent in value of the stock of the employer, or
  3. an individual who is among the highest paid 25 percent of all employees (other than excludable employees who are not participants).

Benefits Testing: Under the benefits test, all benefits provided to “highly-compensated employees (and their dependents), must be provided for all other participants (and their dependents). In other words, HCEs must not be provided better benefits (or the opportunity to elect better benefits) than NHCEs.”

However, for testing purposes, employers may exclude from testing:

  1. employees who have not completed 3 years of service;
  2. employees who have not attained age 25;
  3. part-time or seasonal employees;
  4. employees not included in the plan who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, if accident and health benefits were the subject of good faith
    bargaining between the employee representatives (UNIONS) and the employer; and
  5. employees who are nonresident aliens and who receive no earned income (within the meaning of section 911(d) (2)) from the employer which constitutes income from sources within the United States (within the meaning of section 861(a) (3)).

Hopefully, this section protects the rest of us, but I have not been able to get clarification of this since this “entire” section of the Act addresses “highly compensated individuals” and the “exclusion” portion of this section seems to protect “unions” excluding the rest of those individuals that do not fall into the other 2 categories.

I did find this on a BCBS website in South Carolina which relates to what is currently being discussed in the news regarding “grandfathered plans” but this statement is troubling. “Prohibition of Discrimination Based on Lawful Ownership or Possession of Firearms or Ammunition – Plan may not base eligibility, premiums, discounts, rebates or rewards on the lawful use, ownership, or possession of firearms or ammunition, nor may a plan request this information as part of a wellness program or for any use related to the Health Care Reform Act. These prohibitions do not apply to a grandfathered plan.” It’s apparent, the healthcare law is mandating insurance companies drop current healthcare plans, not only to include all the new requirements, but to have everyone bound by this section of the law with the intent of everyone ultimately being included in any database that currently exits under the Brady Act.

Read more at http://freedomoutpost.com/2013/12/obamacare-highly-compensated-individuals-second-amendment/#l7DwG2Cjt1yezX8w.99

HENRY WAXMAN LEADS NEWEST ATTACK ON GUNS


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG.

 

Here is some information and my rules:

 1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

 

 2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

 

 3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

 

 4) I welcome input from all walks of life.

 

However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”.

 

However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives.

 

Thank you for visiting!

 

Reblogged from:http://www.wnd.com

 

Plan would ban ‘virtually any part used to build a semi-automatic weapon

A few months back, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama had Democrats bring into Congress a long list of new gun laws, restrictions and regulations, only to see them slapped down.

You didn’t think they were done with their gun-control plan, did you?

The newest move comes from Rep. Henry Waxman and several others who have introduced H.R. 2910, the “Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Act of 2013.”

It is getting attention among bloggers who monitor gun rules already, because of what they fear is going to be happening with it.

At Freedom Outpost,Tim Brown writes that the plan “would ban the sale and possession of 80 percent AR-15 receivers.”

“However, the way the legislation reads, it actually bans much more than receivers. It appears to include virtually any part used to build a semi-automatic weapon.”

He wrote that the ban is a little deceptive, because the part that is referenced “is one that is not considered a firearm because it still requires some basic machine work before it is ready to be used in building a firearm.”

He said the possibility with an 80 percent completed lower version, versus a finished product, is that the finished product is required to have a serial number.

“There is no need for the gun to have a serial number or be registered as long as it remains in your possession for personal use,” he notes.

But he notes instead of plugging a “hole in the law,” Waxman aims for much more.

Specifically, the proposal makes it “unlawful” for any person “to sell, offer for sale, manufacture for sale, or import into the United for sale, to a consumer – an assault weapon parts kit.”

That includes “any part or combination of parts not designed and intended for repair or replacement but designed and intended to enable a consumer who possesses all such necessary parts to assemble a semiautomatic assault weapon.”

“Basically, this ends up targeting any rifle part that can be used to build a firearm,” he noted. “In theory, any parts on a firearm are essentially covered with this legislation.”

He noted it’s now in committee, with only Democrat sponsors.

The bill itself proposes that it is “to protect American children and their families from the epidemic of gun violence by banning access to certain weapons…”

In a recent commentary from WND CEO Joseph Farah, he cited a video that reveals Holder’s own plans for weapons in America:

And it recently was discovered that Democratic strategists have drafted a how-to manual on manipulating the public’s emotions toward gun control in the aftermath of a major shooting.

“A high-profile gun-violence incident temporarily draws more people into the conversation about gun violence,” asserts the guide. “We should rely on emotionally powerful language, feelings and images to bring home the terrible impact of gun violence.”

The 80-page document titled “Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging,” also urges gun-control advocates to use images of frightening-looking guns and shooting scenes to make their point.

“The most powerful time to communicate is when concern and emotions are running at their peak,” the guide insists. “The debate over gun violence in America is periodically punctuated by high-profile gun violence incidents including Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, the Trayvon Martin killing, Aurora and Oak Creek. When an incident such as these attracts sustained media attention, it creates a unique climate for our communications efforts.”

The manual offers a step-by-step guide on how to stir up sympathy for victims, arrest the “moral authority” from opposing groups like the National Rifle Association and keep the debate emotional instead of allowing facts to interfere.

“Essentially it’s a how-to book on inciting a moral panic,” comments James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal.

The guidebook, discovered by the Second Amendment Foundation and reported by Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner, was prepared by four strategists including Al Quinlan of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which touts it is “committed to progressive goals,” and includes among its clients the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, among dozens of other left-leaning organizations.

Jeff Knox, director of the Firearms Coalition, warns gun-control campaigns like this specifically direct advocates to shy away from facts because they’re based on trying to fool the public.

“That gun-control playbook is full of lies,” Knox told WND, “with the biggest one being in the opening statement that they have the facts and logic on their side, but that we use emotion and money to advance our cause.

“The opposite is true and demonstrated by the suggestions in the book,” he continued. “They depend on emotion and fear, because reality does not support their position. Gun control doesn’t work. It never has. If it did, there would be ample evidence, but the only evidence they have is so weak and suspect, even anti-gun panels for the Centers for Disease Control and the Science Foundation couldn’t find any strong evidence of gun-control efficacy.”

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/08/henry-waxman-leads-newest-attack-on-guns/#B84mahBZ9RBZETI5.99

 

ATF uses rogue tactics in storefront stings across nation


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG.

 

Here is some information and my rules:

 1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

 

 2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

 

 3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

 

 4) I welcome input from all walks of life.

 

However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”.

 

However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives.

 

Thank you for visiting!

 

Reblogged from:http://www.jsonline.com

 

Posted by:John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge

Illustration by Lou Saldivar

Documents, interviews show agents employed tactics similar to those used in Milwaukee

Backfire: Interview with felon Gary Renaud

Backfire: Judge Karin Immergut on ATF’s tattoo tactic in Portland

Chart


Problems in Milwaukee ATF sting reflected around country

Backfire

A Journal Sentinel investigation uncovered mistakes and failures in an undercover sting in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – stolen guns, sensitive documents lost, wrong people charged and a burglary of the sting storefront.

Go to section.

Aaron Key wasn’t sure he wanted a tattoo on his neck. Especially one of a giant squid smoking a joint.

But the guys running Squid’s Smoke Shop in Portland, Ore., convinced him: It would be a perfect way to promote their store.

They would even pay him and a friend $150 apiece if they agreed to turn their bodies into walking billboards.

Key, who is mentally disabled, was swayed.

He and his friend, Marquis Glover, liked Squid’s. It was their hangout. The 19-year-olds spent many afternoons there playing Xbox and chatting with the owner, “Squid,” and the store clerks.

So they took the money and got the ink etched on their necks, tentacles creeping down to their collarbones.

It would be months before the young men learned the whole thing was a setup. The guys running Squid’s were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.

The tattoos had been sponsored by the U.S. government; advertisements for a fake storefront.

The teens found out as they were arrested and booked into jail.

Earlier this year when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exposed a botched ATF sting in Milwaukee — that included agents hiring a brain-damaged man to promote an undercover storefront and then arresting him for his work — ATF officials told Congress the failed Milwaukee operation was an isolated case of inadequate supervision.

It wasn’t.

The Journal Sentinel reviewed thousands of pages of court records, police reports and other documents and interviewed dozens of people involved in six ATF operations nationwide that were publicly praised by the ATF in recent years for nabbing violent criminals and making cities safer.

Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employed rogue tactics similar to those used in Milwaukee in every operation, from Portland, Ore., to Pensacola, Fla.

Among the findings:

■ ATF agents befriended mentally disabled people to drum up business and later arrested them in at least four cities in addition to Milwaukee. In Wichita, Kan., ATF agents referred to a man with a low IQ as “slow-headed” before deciding to secretly use him as a key cog in their sting. And agents in Albuquerque, N.M., gave a brain-damaged drug addict with little knowledge of weapons a “tutorial” on machine guns, hoping he could find them one.

■ Agents in several cities opened undercover gun- and drug-buying operations in safe zones near churches and schools, allowed juveniles to come in and play video games and teens to smoke marijuana, and provided alcohol to underage youths. In Portland, attorneys for three teens who were charged said a female agent dressed provocatively, flirted with the boys and encouraged them to bring drugs and weapons to the store to sell.

■ As they did in Milwaukee, agents in other cities offered sky-high prices for guns, leading suspects to buy firearms at stores and turn around and sell them to undercover agents for a quick profit. In other stings, agents ran fake pawnshops and readily bought stolen items, such as electronics and bikes — no questions asked — spurring burglaries and theft. In Atlanta, agents bought guns that had been stolen just hours earlier, several ripped off from police cars.

■ Agents damaged buildings they rented for their operations, tearing out walls and rewiring electricity — then stuck landlords with the repair bills. A property owner in Portland said agents removed a parking lot spotlight,damaging her new $30,000 roof and causing leaks, before they shut down the operation and disappeared without a way for her to contact them.

■ Agents pressed suspects for specific firearms that could fetch tougher penalties in court. They allowed felons to walk out of the stores armed with guns. In Wichita, agents suggested a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back — and provided instructions on how to do it. The sawed-off gun allowed them to charge the man with a more serious crime.

■ In Pensacola, the ATF hired a felon to run its pawnshop. The move widened the pool of potential targets, boosting arrest numbers.Even those trying to sell guns legally could be charged if they knowingly sold to a felon. The ATF’s pawnshop partner was later convicted of pointing a loaded gun at someone outside a bar. Instead of a stiff sentence typically handed down to repeat offenders in federal court, he got six months in jail — and a pat on the back from the prosecutor.

“To say this is just a few people, a few bad apples, I don’t buy it,” said David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and an expert on law enforcement tactics and regulation. “If your agency is in good shape with policy, training, supervision and accountability, the bad apples will not be able to take things to this level.”

READ MORE: Flawed sting in Milwaukee included use of brain-damaged man, burglary of storefront, automatic machine gun stolen from agent.

The ATF refused the Journal Sentinel’s request for an interview with Director B. Todd Jones or other agency officials to address findings of the investigation. Instead, the agency provided a written statement that failed to answer any questions, and spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun suggested reporters read ATF news releases issued after the stings.

In an email, Colbrun wrote that the ATF — the primary agency entrusted with enforcing the nation’s gun laws — uses storefront stings to target violent criminals.

“Long-term undercover investigations are one of many tools used by ATF in locations that have high levels of violence occurring in the demographics and a mechanism is needed to rid the area of a large volume of individuals (as) opposed to a handful of individuals,” she wrote.

It’s impossible to know the scope of the problems within the $1.2 billion agency.

The agency won’t say how many undercover storefronts it operates every year or disclose their locations. Agency officials don’t publicize all of the busts. Court records in many districts are sealed by judges or otherwise unavailable to the public. If an operation is flawed, as in Milwaukee, there may be no publicity at all.

Concerns about planning and oversight of undercover operations date to at least the late 1990s when the ATF was part of the Treasury Department. Discussions were held by top officials not only from Treasury but from the Department of Justice and others in hopes of bringing ATF investigations in line with other federal agency standards.

“It was a source of frustration for everybody,” said Rory Little, a former longtime federal prosecutor who participated in the meetings.

Nearly 20 years later, many of the same problems exist.

But because much of the agency’s work is done secretly, the public hasn’t known.

Problems with storefront stings surfaced publicly earlier this year when the Journal Sentinel followed up on a tip from a Milwaukee landlord that the ATF had damaged his building and left behind sensitive documents revealing details about undercover agents and their operation.

The newspaper’s investigation found the operation, dubbed Fearless Distributing, was marred by far more than the landlord knew. A machine gun and other weapons had been stolen from an agent’s car, the storefront was burglarized, agents arrested the wrong people and hired the brain-damaged man, who had an IQ of 54, to set up gun and drug deals.

The machine gun has not been recovered.

Members of Congress from both parties demanded answers, sparking an internal investigation by the ATF and a review by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. Eight months later, the ATF has not released its findings and the Justice Department investigation is not complete.

In a briefing with congressional staffers, ATF officials acknowledged the failures in Milwaukee but indicated they were isolated incidents. At the same time, agency officials admitted they had no written procedures, policies or guidelines for running such undercover operations. They promised to create a written policy.

For years, agents have been setting up everything from phony pawnshops and tattoo parlors to recording studios and thrift stores with no official protocol.

It’s no surprise that, with few rules and little oversight, stings have gone astray, said a veteran ATF agent who asked that his name not be published because he was not authorized to speak on the issue and feared retribution.

Many of the problems stem from poor management in the field divisions coupled with pressure on agents to make cases and prove their worth, he said.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to reporting to Congress for budget reasons, the numbers are all that count,” the agent said. “It is hard to define in a meaningful way to Congress that arresting one person with a long criminal history of 15 felonies is better than arresting 15 people with one felony each.”

The way it works

The storefronts generally sell items such as hip-hop clothing and shoes, cigarettes and drug paraphernalia.

ATF agents offer their goods at steep discounts, hoping to generate traffic. Cigarettes might sell for $2 below retail. Hundred-dollar jeans might go for $10.

When it comes to pawnshops, agents might buy just about anything, paying top dollar, and welcome stolen items.

No matter the type of store, they wire the places with high-resolution cameras and build secret closets with recording equipment.

Growing scraggly beards and speaking street lingo, agents work to build trust among potential targets, spreading the word they are looking to buy guns and drugs. They print up fliers and pump neighbors for leads.

And then they make deals, dishing out cash for pistols and shotguns, heroin and ecstasy, sometimes repeatedly from the same “customers.”

After several months, sometimes a year, they shut down and bust those who came in and conducted illegal business. They tally up the weapons seized and tout the number of defendants — the more the better — displaying guns and drugs before local TV cameras and print journalists, showcasing their work.

With defendants caught on camera, the cases typically lead to guilty pleas and swift convictions. Seldom do the cases go to trial.

Instead,they quickly disappear from public attention.

“There is enough crime out there, why do you have to manufacture it?” said Jeff Griffith, a lawyer for a defendant in Wichita. “You are really creating crime, which then you are prosecuting. You wonder where the moral high ground is in this.”

To be sure, the operations have led to hundreds of convictions and long prison sentences for offenders, some with violent records.

In Albuquerque, for example, a man who was twice indicted on first-degree murder charges, once for killing a man in prison, was later busted in a storefront sting for being a felon in possession of weapon.

But in many cases examined by the Journal Sentinel, the people charged in the stings had minor criminal histories or nonviolent convictions such as burglary or drug possession.

In several of those cases, defendants still got stiff sentences, but others resulted in little or no punishment. In Wichita, nearly a third of the roughly 50 federal cases charged led to no prison time. Defendants got probation or had their case dismissed, records showed. One was acquitted by a jury.

Not the results federal agents typically trumpet.

Former prosecutors and other experts say the success of storefront stings should be measured by the capture of high-level targets, not street-level criminals looking to make a quick buck.

“For street crime in the federal system, we want cases to take us beyond the immediate person into a more significant, dangerous group,” said defense attorney Rodney Cubbie, former head of the organized crime unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee. “It seems like these cases stop with the particular individual. That is a waste of federal resources.”

Cubbie called the stings ineffective and lazy law enforcement. He and others said it’s unsurprising that stings failed to take down criminal organizations or nab many major offenders. Federal stings work best when they are tailored to a specific person or group, they said.

“To open a storefront and just have an ad hoc potluck kind of a hope that maybe you’ll find somebody who might commit crimes in your presence, that makes no sense to me,” said defense attorney Franklyn Gimbel, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Milwaukee mob boss Frank Balistrieri. “They got a bunch of table scraps, that’s what they got, when it comes down to it.”

Agents ensnare ‘slow-headed’ man

Tony Bruner was looking for a job when he noticed a new store opening a few blocks from where he lived with his grandmother in a lower-income neighborhood in Wichita just east of Interstate 135.

With an IQ in the mid-50s — considered extremely intellectually deficient — Bruner hadn’t been able to hold down a job. His 2009 felony burglary conviction didn’t help. Still he was under pressure from his probation agent and grandmother to find work.

Bruner hadn’t heard of Bandit Trading, but the thrift shop full of hip-hop clothes and shoes looked like a good prospect when he walked in.

The 20-year-old Bruner was just what undercover agents running the store were looking for.

Agents could see Bruner was intellectually disabled. On a video of one of their first meetings in November 2010, agents referred to him as “slow-headed,” according to Griffith, Bruner’s attorney.

“It was essential to have someone like Tony or your low-IQ guy in Milwaukee for this operation,” Griffith said. “These 30-something bearded and tattooed white guys aren’t going to knock on doors in the hood and say ‘Do you have guns?’ They had to get someone to do it for them.”

Agent Jason Fuller hired Bruner to hand out cards in the neighborhood; do odd jobs, such as clean up the parking lot; and watch out for police. The agents paid him in cigarettes, clothing from the store and cash — $20 to $50 in commission to find them electronics and other goods. And they took him to McDonald’s when he was hungry.

Eventually they asked him to find guns.

Bruner said he didn’t have any but he would try to find some. He ended up brokering dozens of gun sales.

And then, they arrested him on more than 100 counts of being a felon in possession of a weapon.

“I thought I was doing, I was just doing my job. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” Bruner told the judge. “And they tricked me into believing I was doing a good job. And they’d tell me I was doing a good job, pat me on the back, telling me, ‘You’re doing a good job.’ We’d hug each other and stuff like that, and they treated me like they cared about me. I told ’em I had a felony, I’m trying to stay out of trouble.”

While other defendants suspected the store was a front — one was captured on video saying, “You are straight-up police!” Bruner kept telling the people in the neighborhood that the agents were his guys, “his bosses.”

Glenda Thomas, Bruner’s grandmother, said the ATF officers duped him. She warned him to stay away — just like a grandmother in Milwaukee warned her brain-damaged grandson about Fearless Distributing.

“Those guys kept preying on him about everything — giving him a shirt, a pair of pants, shoes, and a pair of shorts —that’s how they paid him,” Thomas told the Journal Sentinel.

“I told him, I said, ‘Tony, those people are not real. Why would they pay you to look out for a police car?’ I said, ‘Tony, you need to stop messing around with them.’ He said, ‘Oh, Grandma, those are my friends.'”

The judge found Bruner legally competent to proceed in his case.

Bruner told the judge he worried he would be killed in prison because the government made it look like he was working with the agents, and most of the defendants believed it.

He was sentenced to three years in prison. The judge told him he was getting a big break because he could have gotten 10 to 12 years.

Advocates for the developmentally disabled called the ATF’s tactics disturbing.

People with mental disabilities “have a responsibility to be law-abiding citizens like anyone else,” said Leigh Ann Davis, a program manager for the Arc, a national advocacy organization for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. “The question that comes into play is ‘How much do they know they were committing a crime, and were they used?'”

People working in the justice system — from street cops to federal judges — need to give additional consideration to circumstances involving people with disabilities, Davis said. “This is a population of people that are easy to get to do things. They are easy prey…. They can’t make good judgment calls. That’s a serious issue if an ATF agent comes up and wants to be your friend.”

Anything for a Buck snags ‘Little Squirrel’ in Pensacola

Jeremy Norris wasn’t a felon. He wasn’t prohibited from owning or selling weapons when he put his guns up for sale in March 2010 in a local weekly newspaper.

The unemployed 24-year-old Norris — who lived with his parents and girlfriend — got into trouble when he answered a phone call from someone inquiring about the guns.

He didn’t know the caller was working for an undercover federal sting. Norris has an IQ of 76, defined by experts as diminished mental capacity, bordering mental retardation.

In hours of ATFsurveillance video, Norris can be seen stumbling around, at one point with his girlfriend leading him around by the back of his shirt, according to Norris’ attorney Jennifer Hart.

Norris didn’t have a car, so ATF agent Craig Saier — assigned to a fake pawnshop called Anything for a Buck — went to him. And he brought along the operation’s top asset, a felon named Gary Renaud.

Anyone who sold to Renaud — knowing he was felon — could be criminally charged.

That first day, Renaud bought guns from Norris — but because he never said he was a felon, Norris could not be charged with a crime.

The next time was different. Renaud told Norris he was a felon. Norris sold him a gun anyway. And Renaud and agents went back.

Again and again. Each time paying far more than retail for the guns. So much that sometimes Norris, his parents and his girlfriend went to gun stores, bought firearms and sold them to Renaud at the storefront for a profit the same day, according to court documents.

The agents called Norris “Little Squirrel.” Surveillance video captured one of them saying, “I can use his desperation against him,” according to court documents.

“They were abusive to him,” Hart said in an interview. “These are federal agents. Jeremy was like shooting fish in a barrel for them. Jeremy Norris is mentally retarded and the agents in this case used that to take advantage of him.”

Renaud told the Journal Sentinel that nobody took advantage of Norris. Although he and agents joked that Norris was “half retarded,” he knew what he was doing, Renaud said.

READ MORE: After sting is over, Renaud commits a gun crime — and gets a break from prosecutors.

“He was money-hungry,” he said, adding Norris was willing to do anything to get money for drugs. “He wanted them drugs and he wasn’t afraid to let anybody know it, either.”

Citing Norris’ low IQ, the judge sentenced him to probation.

Norris was not the only mentally diminished defendant involved in the Anything for a Buck operation.

John Molchan, a state prosecutor in Florida, said his office reviewed and prosecuted several of the storefront cases. He said they decided not to pursue cases against a number of low-mental-functioning defendants.

They didn’t even arrest those people, Molchan said, noting prosecutors have great discretion when deciding whether to charge in such cases.

“I tell all the assistants, ‘Do the right thing.’ What is the right thing when dealing with someone who is not as gifted as everybody else?” Molchan said. “There is a great deal of responsibility placed on us to deal with that kind of problem.”

Attorney says defendant got ‘tutorial’ on gun

Guillermo Medel was a heroin addict and drug dealer hoping to make some cash to support his habit when a friend brought him to Jokerz Traderz pawnshop in a strip mall in a working-class neighborhood on San Mateo Blvd. in Albuquerque.

The 28-year-old Medel, who had been convicted of felony drug possession and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, carried a revolver for protection but had never dealt in guns, according to court records.

When undercover ATF agents running the store offered him $400 for his gun, he saw an opportunity. He didn’t sell it then — he said he needed it — but over time he developed a relationship with the agents, bringing them guns he would get from trading drugs on the street.

When they asked for a machine gun, Medel thought he had one for them.

One problem: he didn’t know what a machine gun was.

Medel had brain damage. Hit by a drunken driver when he was 7, Medel had spent months in the hospital and never fully recovered.

Agents took advantage of that and his drug addiction when they offered such high prices for guns, Medel’s attorney, Brian Pori, said in court.

Pori told the Journal Sentinel he is “certain that the agents were aware that Guillermo was a drug-addicted, brain-damaged street hustler who never trafficked guns in his life.”

“He wouldn’t know how to use a machine gun to save his ass,” Pori said.

Pori said agents gave Medel a “tutorial” in the back room of the pawnshop to help him distinguish a machine gun from a semiautomatic weapon.

ATF agent Brandon Garcia acknowledged in court Medel didn’t know how to identify a machine gun. Garcia said he “field tested” the machine gun in front of Medel to determine whether it was a machine gun but wasn’t teaching Medel how to use it.

“And even though he saw me do it he still doesn’t know how to do it,” Garcia said in a March 2, 2011, hearing.

Garcia denied knowing Medel was brain damaged.

Ultimately Medel brought them a fully automatic machine gun, the only one seized in the sting. Medel was sentenced to eight years in federal prison.

In another case stemming from the Albuquerque sting, federal charges were dismissed against a defendant with “an extensive psychiatric history.”

Beating a path to storefronts with stolen goods

Aside from ensnaring mentally disabled people in their stings, ATF storefronts in several cities stimulated a market for stolen goods, boosting the appeal of theft and burglary.

In Phoenix, James Arthur Lewis was charged with selling 11 weapons to agents at an undercover storefront. Lewis “obtained most of the firearms during residential burglaries he committed in late 2010,” according to a May 16, 2012, U.S. Department of Justice news release.

In Pensacola, Roderick Jones committed seven burglaries in six weeks, stealing generators, air compressors, leaf blowers, oxygen tanks and pressure washers from workers’ trucks, reaping more than $2,000 from Anything for a Buck.

Warren Phillips did the same thing, breaking into cars and homes, snagging GPS devices, satellite radios and even a U.S. Navy-owned computer, racing immediately to the undercover pawnshop to make quick cash, as much as $500 at a time, according to police reports.

On several occasions, Phillips told the agents the goods were stolen. And one time he sold them back a DVD player that he had actually stolen from them.

Maurice Rembert, too, knew about Anything for a Buck and on a June afternoon in 2011 grabbed a bike outside of a Walgreens and rode it straight to the store for $25.

One of the larger thefts linked to the operation was that of engagement and wedding rings, worth $15,000, that were stolen four months after the store opened.

“It requires no great thinking to know if you accept stolen goods in a pawnshop … people are going to sell you stolen goods,” said Harris, the professor from Pittsburgh. “You’re asking people who frequent that place to rob and burglarize their neighbors.”

It’s unclear how many of the stolen items were returned to their rightful owners. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office put thousands of items on display at an open house after the bust and invited the public to come in to claim their belongings. Laptops, GPS devices, tools and jewelry filled the room.

According to local news accounts at the time, just 23 items — not including guns — were returned to 10 people. The sheriff’s office refused to answer Journal Sentinel questions.

An undercover operation in Atlanta, a smoke shop called ATL Blaze, experienced similar problems. Some defendants came to the store as many as 20 times after stealing weapons and other goods.

Some guns were stolen from police squad cars. ATF agents said in court documents they tried to deter such thefts by paying less for police guns.

The burglaries associated with ATL Blaze caused other problems for local law enforcement. Sheriff’s deputies and local police — unaware the weapons had already been recovered by federal agents — scrambled around to solve the burglaries, spending untold resources interviewing witnesses.

At times, they never solved the case. And the weapons never made it back to the owners.

A Hi-Point pistol stolen from a car just after Christmas in 2010, for example, was still listed as stolen by the Fulton County Police Department when the Journal Sentinel contacted the department last month. ATF agents bought the gun at their secret storefront a week after it was taken.

“If the ATF recovered this weapon, it should be in our system.” said Lt. G.T. Johnson, of the department. “We have not received any notification that it was recovered.”

The lack of communication not only affects the clearance rate for the police department but also is a problem for whoever has the gun now, Johnson said.

Molchan, the state prosecutor in Pensacola, said there were worries at the outset that the sting might encourage more burglaries, but agents in charge concluded the risk was worth it.

“That is one of the concerns that you have going into something like this,” he said. “That is certainly worrisome.”

And it’s not just residents that got hit by the thieves. Anything for a Buck itself was ripped off, just like the agency’s Fearless storefront in Milwaukee. The Pensacola sting was burglarized at least twice, records show.

“I remember hearing that and kind of laughing about it, ‘We got burglarized,'” Molchan said.

Despite those problems, Molchan said he thinks the operation was successful.

“We did accomplish getting the bad guys off the street and incarcerated them,” he said. “Certainly no operation is perfect, but overall we view it as a major success.”

Armed felons allowed to leave stores

In Milwaukee, agents let a felon with a violent history leave their undercover store armed with a gun, saying he needed it for retaliation.

It wasn’t the only time federal agents let armed felons leave their sight.

In Albuquerque, agents said they didn’t know one man was a felon when they let him leave with a revolver. It took them two weeks to figure it out.

In Wichita, agents running Bandit Trading let felons leave the store with guns at least three times.

In the case of Keandre Johnson, prosecutors noted in a news release after the bust that he sold 16 guns to agents. The news release didn’t mention that agents turned away one of his guns because it was not sawed-off.

Johnson and his friend Jeremy Love brought a shotgun into Bandit Trading in mid-2011, but the agents weren’t happy with it, according to attorneys for the men.

The agents told Johnson they wanted a “shorty” — meaning a sawed-off shotgun. Having such a gun — more deadly at close range and easier to conceal — is illegal and can mean additional prison time. Johnson left with the gun to go saw it off, but then called the agents to ask what kind of saw to use, said Steve Gradert, attorney for Johnson. The agent told him how to do it, Gradert said.

In another case, Johnny E. Griffith brought in two AK-47s to sell. But agents only had enough money to buy one, according to court documents. Griffith, a felon, was allowed to leave with the other. Agents never recovered it.

ATF officials acknowledged to Congress in April that Operation Fearless in Milwaukee had no counter-surveillance set up to monitor or take down targets when they left the store — even armed felons threatening to shoot someone. They called the failure the result of poor judgment and planning.

“It’s basic police work,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor. “The agency needs to develop experts and come up with some protocol.”

Landlord left with the bill

Beyond letting armed felons loose on the streets, ATF stings examined by the Journal Sentinel shared another similarity. They left unhappy landlords in their wake.

As agents did in Milwaukee, their Portland counterparts damaged a building and stuck the landlord with the bill.

Jan Gilbertson, who owns the building where agents set up Squid’s Smoke Shop, said she had no idea she was leasing to federal agents. She found out from news reports after they had made the bust and cleared out.

And when she saw what they had done to her building, it all made sense.

The agents cut holes in the walls for cameras, damaged the carpet and left behind junk.

Worst of all, they tore out a large spotlight and in the process punctured a new $30,000 roof that then leaked and had to be repaired.

The security deposit didn’t cover it and the agents were nowhere to be found, she said.

“They know what they’re doing when they do it and not telling you anything and then they disappear. It’s not like they come back and fix it,” she said. “It is the U.S. government. It’s real difficult to figure that all out. What do you do? … It ended up being a real bad situation for us.”

Portland sting across from school

The ATF opened Squid’s Smoke Shop in 2010 in an aging strip mall near a tax service, hairdresser and a coffee shop — and across the street from H.B. Lee Middle School.

ATF agents said the location near a school — which allowed enhanced penalties for selling in a safe zone — was an accident.

Agent Ben Ziesemer told defense attorney Kathleen Dunn he didn’t realize it was across the street from the school. When they toured the property, he said he entered the building through a different door and didn’t see the school.

Ziesemer, who ran the store and went by the name “Squid,” also said it was the only place in that part of town that they could find that offered month-to-month rent, Dunn said. But Gilbertson, the owner, told the Journal Sentinel the ATF signed a one-year lease.

Those charged with dealing drugs and weapons near a school can’t use ignorance of their location as a defense, experts said. If agents didn’t realize they were near the school, it is a damning indictment of the planning of the operation.

“That won’t hold water,” said Little, the former prosecutor who is now a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “It shows they are not doing their homework. If you’re not doing your homework to find everything you can, you’re as bad as the criminals.”

Squid’s was one of at leasta half-dozen storefronts opened in safe zones, the Journal Sentinel investigation found.

Laws that increase penalties for selling guns or drugs within 1,000 feet of a school include an exception for law enforcement officers who are acting in their “official capacity.”

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney David Hannon, who prosecuted 17 people on state charges, most with selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, said the operation was a benefit to Portland and that area of the city. He called the sting an effective tool against illegal activity and said there were advantagesto having it close to a school.

“We might not have been aware of all the activity next to a school without the undercover operation in place,” he said.

James Shanks, 54, who has lived in the area for nearly five years and had two sons attending Lee Middle School at the time, was not happy to learn the ATF set up a gun- and drug-buying operation nearby.

“I think it is OK to do it, but did they have to put it there? Couldn’t they find somewhere else?” he said. “It’s too close to the school. When you have kids around guns, anything can happen.”

Agents suggest — and pay for — tattoo

With a school nearby and an Xbox video game console to play for free, Squid’s frequently drew a crowd that included juveniles.

At least three juveniles were arrested and charged in children’s court in the sting. Squid’s was among at least four ATF storefronts investigated by the Journal Sentinel where kids were ensnared in the operation.

“These are kids who don’t have positive adult connections in their lives and if someone takes an interest in them it’s going to be extremely influential,” said Mark McKechnie, executive director of Youth, Rights & Justice, which represented three juveniles in Portland. “I think we were all just disturbed that they (ATF agents) seemed to be focusing on low-hanging fruit.”

Glover and Key, both 19 at the time, were regulars at Squid’s. Glover lived right around the corner and spent hours at a time playing video games with Squid and people he thought were store workers.

One day the idea of getting a tattoo came up, Glover told the Journal Sentinel.

Glover said he was reluctant, but that he was persuaded by the guys at Squid’s, who he thought were his friends.

“It was like, ‘Now you guys are honorary members of the club,'” Glover said. “We was young at the time … I was so naive.”

After they got the tattoos, he said agents took pictures and posted them on the phony storefront’s Facebook page and website.

“They humiliated us,” he said. “They were making a mockery of us.”

Glover was ultimately charged with trading an ounce of marijuana for clothing at the store. The charge included selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Little, who spent eight years as a federal prosecutor in California and a year as associate deputy attorney general in Washington, D.C., said he had never heard of such out-of-bounds behavior by federal agents.

“That’s about as far over the line as you can imagine,” Little said. “The government shouldn’t be encouraging people to permanently disfigure their bodies.”

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Karin Immergut, who handled Glover’s case, chided the agents as well, asking the state prosecutor to “send a message back (to the ATF)” about the tattoos.

“It’s really a bad idea,” she said. “They should not be recommending that.”

In federal court, a prosecutor who handled several of the ATF cases, including Key’s, tried to explain to a judge why the agents employed the tactic.

The agents said they thought Key and Glover were testing them to see if they were law enforcement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin said in a January 2012 sentencing hearing.

Key and Glover supposedly did this by suggesting they all smoke marijuana.

Kerin said the agents then proposed Key and Glover get tattoos as a way to get them off their trail.

The explanation didn’t make sense to U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman, a former federal prosecutor.

“I guess I don’t make the connection,” Mosman said. “They’re concerned that if, among other things, they don’t smoke marijuana with this guy that they’ll be given up as law enforcement, so they think a way to derail that is to suggest that he get a tattoo?”

Kerin tried again to explain.

“Mr. Key and Mr. Glover were trying to identify them as law enforcement or possibly testing to determine if they were law enforcement.”

The judge cut in: “I think I understand that part. I just don’t understand why you put someone off your trail by suggesting they get a tattoo. How does that help?”

Kerin didn’t answer directly. He said agents were looking for people to promote the store. They paid one person to hold up a sign on the street. Others to get tattoos.

They told their customers: “Hey, we’re looking for people to advertise, we’re looking for people to get tattoos,” Kerin said.

“That simply is not a legitimate law enforcement tactic,” said Key’s attorney, Alison Clark. “This wasn’t simply just a suggestion: ‘Hey, you would look really great if you had a tattoo.’ This was suggested and paid for by the government.”

The severity of Key’s mental disability was not listed in the documents, but the prosecutor left no doubt he was intellectually challenged.

“The one thing we do agree on is the Court can and should take the defendant’s low-intellectual functioning into account in determining a proper sentence in this case,” Kerin wrote in a sentencing memo.

Mosman sentenced Key to 18 months in prison for selling a sawed-off shotgun and arranging for prostitutes to come to a party being thrown by the undercover agents.

He then asked Key if he wanted the squid tattoo removed.

“Yes,” Key told the judge.

Mosman ordered the tattoo be removed after Key was released from prison.

“And I require the ATF to pay for the removal,” he said.

***

HOW WE REPORTED THIS STORY

In the wake of a flawed storefront sting in Milwaukee, reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sought to examine similar operations around the country. The ATF refused to provide a list of past stings. Reporters discovered the stings, in part, through tips, court records, news coverage and news releases issued by the ATF, the U.S. Department of Justice and local law enforcement. Reporters limited their examination to stings that were publicized since 2010.

Using the online federal court records system, Pacer, the reporters pieced together the cases and then combed through thousands of pages of documents — indictments and criminal complaints, plea agreements and sentencing transcripts. Where transcripts were not available online, the Journal Sentinel ordered them. In some districts, nearly all documents related to stings were either sealed by judges or unavailable.

The reporters also reviewed hundreds of pages of state court records, police reports and other records in several states. In addition, the reporters interviewed dozens of defense attorneys, prosecutors, defendants and their families, people who lived and worked near the stings, legal experts and insiders at the ATF and other law enforcement agencies.

***

What could go wrong?

■ Agents pay for tattoos to promote store

■ Mentally disabled used, then charged

■ Stings near schools and churches

■ Felons hired to boost arrest numbers

■ High gun prices spur thefts

■ Buildings damaged, landlords unpaid

■ Felons leave storefronts with guns

***

INFORMATION NOT RELEASED

The ATF has refused to release its internal investigation into the failures of its flawed Fearless Distributing sting in Milwaukee. The report has been sought by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and members of Congress since its completion earlier this year.

The internal review was launched after a Journal Sentinel investigation revealed numerous foul-ups in the operation. For nine months, the ATF also has refused to provide any documents to the Journal Sentinel, which has filed a dozen requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act, including the cost of the operations and rules on agents keeping guns in their vehicles.

In late November, Department of Justice attorney Anne D. Work affirmed the ATF’s position that its entire internal report on the closed Milwaukee operation should be kept secret and not released to the public. Work wrote that releasing the investigation “could reasonably be expected to interfere with (law) enforcement proceedings.”

Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/atf-uses-rogue-tactics-in-storefront-stings-across-the-nation-b99146765z1-234916641.html#ixzz2n20DtK3d
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Allen West warns Obama’s ‘backdoor gun control is moving forward’


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG.

 

Here is some information and my rules:

 1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

 

 2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

 

 3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

 

 4) I welcome input from all walks of life.

 

However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”.

 

However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives.

 

Thank you for visiting!

 

Reblogged from:http://www.washingtontimes.com

 

Posted by:Cheryl K. Chumley

  • ** FILE ** Former Rep. Allen B. West, Florida Republican, speaks at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, Md., on Thursday, March 14, 2013. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

Come 2014, all ammunition sold to civilian gun-owners in America will have to be imported, a result of President Obama’s crackdown on sulfur dioxide and lead emissions and accompanying harsh Environmental Protection Agency regulations, said former Florida congressman, Lt. Col. Allen West.

And for defenders of the Second Amendment, that means higher ammo prices are likely on the way — a situation Mr. Allen writes on his blog, AllenBWest.com, is akin to a federal power-grab on guns, albeit through the backdoor.

He said the situation stemmed from the shutdown of The Doe Run Lead Smelter in Missouri, a business that’s been around since 1892 but due to close at the end of this month. Mr. West said it’s due to new air standards placed on the company that would have cost $100 million to achieve.

“[This] will surely increase the price and possibly come under government control,” Mr. West warned, Breitbart.com reported. “It seems this is fully in concert with the U.S. Military and Homeland Defense recent purchase of large quantities of ammunition.”

He said the “chilling effect” is that while the closure of the smelt plant doesn’t take guns out of the hands of Americans, it does put in jeopardy ammunition supplies.

“You can own all the guns you want, but if you can’t get ammo, you are out of luck,” Mr. West wrote, on his blog. “Remember when President Obama promised his minions that he was working on gun control behind the scenes? Welcome to it. The result is that all domestically mined ore will have to be shipped overseas, refined and then shipped back to the U.S.”

Mr. West warned: “Not only will ammo be even harder to come by, the demand and the process of supply will cause the price to skyrocket even more. And ponder this, there is an excellent chance that Obama will rig the market to where all ammo has to be purchased from the government, instituting an ammo registration. … So America, back door gun control is moving forward … [and] our Second Amendment rights are undergoing an assault by clandestine infiltration.”

The gun grabbers are always using any means they can to hurt the American hunters and home defense folks!

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/dec/2/allen-west-warns-obamas-backdoor-gun-control/#ixzz2mM1a3aky

Democrats Beginning To See Reality On ObamaCare: Higher Premiums, Empty Promises


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG.

 

Here is some information and my rules:

 1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

 

 2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

 

 3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

 

 4) I welcome input from all walks of life.

 

However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”.

 

However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives.

 

Thank you for visiting!

 

Reblogged from:http://downtrend.com

 

Posted by:Joseph R. Carducci

ObamaCareFailure

 

Obama won re-election in 2012 on the back of a number of promises that he was able to use to convince the American people of his sincerity. Or maybe he just seemed to be a more believable person than Romney. Whatever the reason, he made a lot of promises about how his new healthcare program was going to work. Of course we all heard a lot about being able to keep our policies if we wished, and that our premiums would actually be lowered (something about the average family saving around $2,500 per year seems to ring a bell).

With these promises now generally regarded as having been nothing more than lies to win support, many Democrats and others who had supported Obama in the past are starting to see things differently. Many Obama supporters were ‘laughing’ at the Republicans, until they saw that their own premiums were going up under the new healthcare law. Or how about this quote from a committed liberal: “Of course, I want people to have healthcare. I just didn’t realize that I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”

This is really ultimately what liberalism comes down to. The people always want something for nothing. No one really thought to examine the economic feasibility of ObamaCare before it passed. Instead, many of us simply tool the president at his word. Many liberals thought that ‘someone’ else would actually be paying for it, and they could simply have free healthcare. Woo-hoo.

Of course, the roll out of the healthcare website exchanges has also been filled with problems and difficulties. This has rightly made headlines for news organizations and cyber space all around the country and the world. However, we should also mention that the program itself is actually fatally flawed. Even after the online exchanges are fixed (good luck meeting the new end of November goal on that one), the program will still be a failure.

 

Middle income Americans are finding it more and more difficult to afford ObamaCare. In California, there is an estimated 30% average rate hike, although many people are seeing even larger premium increases. A good many people may even just decide to go without, finding it more affordable to simply pay the fine or penalty. It has been said also that if a large number of young and healthy people do not sign up for ObamaCare, the program will have serious financial problems. Many ObamaCare supporters echo this comment, made by a young woman after seeing a 50% rate increase: “I was all for ObamaCare until I found out I was paying for it.”

I guess a number of people just simply assumed that Obama was telling the truth about his plan and that the Republicans were lying. Sadly, it took many former Obama supporters this long to figure out the truth of things, but now the scales are slowly beginning to fall from the eyes of people. Debra Saunders, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle says that she has seen evidence indicating at least 500,000 Californians are going to be kicked off their current healthcare plans next year, with more to follow later as the employer mandate begins to take effect in 2015.

It has also been now clearly reported and proven that the Obama Regime deliberately postponed key steps in the process in order to protect Obama’s re-election efforts. Yet HHS head Kathleen Sebelius continues to lie about all of this.

What do YOU think? Are the Democrats starting to see reality on this? Do you see that more and more people are turning on Obama in response to realizations of higher costs? What should be done about all this?

 

Liberals in Retreat


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG. Here is some information and my rules:

1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

4) I welcome input from all walks of life. However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”. However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives. Thank you for visiting!

This is a Reblogged from http://www.nationalreview.com 

Posted by John Fund

Three elections across the globe deliver an unpleasant shock to liberal ideologues. Recall supporters walk the line in Colorado. John Fund   Three elections in the last week have challenged long-held liberal premises about how elections are fought and what the public wants. It’s worth examining those results in such widely separated places as Australia, Norway, and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. In Colorado, liberals are already in denial about the fact that two Democratic state senators were recalled from office in districts Barack Obama carried by some 20 percentage points only ten months ago. The recalls were organized by citizens upset with the lawmakers’ votes in favor of a gun-control measure. The two senators also helped pass bills perceived as being against the interests of rural areas and helped push through a fraud-prone election law that shifted the Centennial State to all-mail voting.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee’s chairwoman, said the results simply reflected voter suppression, pure and simple.” Matt Vespa of Red State scoffed at her flimsy explanation: More Democrats and independents signed the two recall petitions than did Republicans, he noted, which “only further discredits DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s insane claim that her side lost due to voter suppression.”

Liberals are also claiming that the black arts of the National Rifle Association skewed the results. But the gun-rights group came very late to support the recalls, and the Denver Post reports that pro-gun-control groups spent some $3 million versus only $540,000 by recall supporters. Grover Norquist, a board member of the National Rifle Association, claims once again that liberals mistook “position for passion” on an issue. In the wake of the Newtown massacre of last December, the Left believed public opinion had finally turned in favor of gun control; in support of this view, they cited surveys showing overwhelming support for background checks and limits on ammunition magazines. As Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast wrote, “You cannot oppose the will of 90 percent of the public and expect no consequences.” But in terms of intensity, the advantage goes to those who oppose restrictions on gun rights and believe that even the most modest of them will only embolden those who ultimately aim to restrict access to guns even further.

As Norquist explains it: “The polls showed many people wanted some new gun-control laws at the same time they told pollsters they didn’t think they would prevent future Newtowns. Understandable outrage at murders accompanied by an acknowledgement it won’t make things better doesn’t make a passionate voter. Gun-rights supporters are always passionate, which is why more laws expanding gun rights have passed since Newtown than laws restricting them.”

What should worry Democrats is that the two Colorado districts that recalled their senators last Tuesday represent the two sides of their electoral coalition. The district in downtown Colorado Springs was urban, trendy, and filled with upper-income social liberals; it voted 59 percent to 38 percent for Obama. The other district in nearby Pueblo and its suburbs was Hispanic, moderate-to-lower income, blue-collar, and more culturally conservative; it voted 58 percent to 39 percent for Obama. “The recall in Pueblo was started by two plumbers and an electrician,” notes Jon Caldara, head of the pro-recall Independence Institute. “Hispanics and blue-collar voters resented interference in what they regarded as their local rights.” And as for the NRA, the Democratic survey firm Public Policy Polling found voters in Pueblo had a positive view of the group. If the Colorado results showed the limits of liberal paternalism’s appeal, voters in prosperous Australia and Norway rebelled against liberal governments they perceived as incompetent and too focused on peripheral issues. In Australia, conservative leader Tony Abbott made opposition to the Labor government’s carbon tax the signature issue of his campaign. Polls showed that the public expressed general concern about global warming, but Abbott knew the polls also showed voters didn’t believe a carbon tax could do much about the climate and would probably serve as an excuse to extract more money from taxpayers. “Labor forgot about the basics of how to practice competent economic policy and went off on wild tangents to appeal to its special-interest backers,” Tim Andrews of the Australian Taxpayers Alliance told me. In Norway, after the 2011 massacre of dozens of teenagers by a white-separatist madman, the ruling Labor government was convinced that their conservative opposition would be discredited and that they could retain power in an economic climate where growth fueled by the nation’s abundant oil reserves was averaging over 3 percent a year. But an independent investigation of how the killer was able to evade capture for hours pointed out incredible bureaucratic incompetence in the national police bureaucracy, and even called into question rules banning almost all policemen from carrying guns. In addition, the leaders of the Conservative party and the libertarian Progress party succeeded in persuading voters that high taxes and suffocating regulations were preventing Norwegians from creating non-oil entrepreneurial ventures that employed people. “As rich and generous as Norwegians are, they want their children to inherit a real economy, and they demand better accountability from their government for the taxes they pay,” Jan Arild Snoen, a Norwegian political analyst, told me last August when a National Review cruise visited Norway. Michael Barone, the co-author of The Almanac of American Politics and an analyst of international elections, tells me that many people driven by ideology often feel elections should revolve around their concerns and reflect their priorities. “That can happen on the left or on the right,” he says. “But liberals are especially prone to not recognizing the public does care if their policies actually work in practice and are in sync with their everyday concerns.” In all three elections held in the last week — from Australia to Norway to Colorado — liberals forgot that their priorities aren’t often those of the average voter. In each case, they were punished for it. — John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.

Colorado’s Gun-Control Meltdown


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG. Here is some information and my rules:

1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

4) I welcome input from all walks of life. However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”. However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives. Thank you for visiting!

Posted by Michelle Malkin

Democratic legislators made their contempt for the people clear.

 

State senator John Morse concedes defeat in the recall election, September 10, 2013.

You voted for him and you took him out the way it is supposed to work!

Michelle Malkin

Colorado Springs — Quick, call the CDC. We’ve got a Rocky Mountain outbreak of Acute Sore-Loser Fever. After failing to stave off two historic recall bids on Tuesday, two delusional state legislators and their national party bosses just can’t help but double down and trash voters as dumb, sick, criminal, and profligate.

The ululations of gun-grabbing Democrats here in my adopted home state are reverberating far and wide. Appearing on cable TV Thursday to answer the question “What happened?” Pueblo state senator Angela Giron sputtered that she lost her seat due to “voter suppression.” Giron whined to CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin that voters “weren’t able to get to the polls” and that there was “voter confusion.”

“Voter confusion”? My goodness. You’d think there were no public libraries, local television stations, talk radio, newspapers, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or government websites to get information about the elections. (Oh, and pay no attention to the massive six-to-one spending advantage that Giron and her fellow recall target John Morse, formerly the president of the state senate, enjoyed.)

Voter suppression”? Dios mio! You’d think there were New Black Panther Party thugs standing outside the polls shouting racist epithets and waving police batons!

But no, there was no “voter confusion” or “voter suppression.” In fact, as the Colorado Peak Politics blog pointed out, the “majority of turnout in [Giron’s] district was Democrat, by a large margin. And she still lost. Voter suppression [is] not even believable.”

Giron lost in her Obama-loving Democratic third senate district by a whopping twelve points. The only significant complaint about voter suppression came after the polls closed — and not from anyone in the district, but from out-of-state Democratic National Committee chairman Debbie Wah-wah-wah-sserman Schultz of Florida. The majority of constituents who signed the recall petitions against her were, um, Democrats. Would Giron care to argue that voters from the same party that put her in office are too dumb and confused to comprehend her state’s own constitution and election process?

Giron was defeated not by elite Republicans and nefarious NRA bigwigs, but by a former Clinton supporter/police chief/campaign neophyte and a couple of upstart citizen activists who make a living as plumbers.

Grassroots organizers in both Pueblo and El Paso Counties with little to no previous electoral experience researched the state constitution’s recall provisions and put in the hard nose-to-the-grindstone work of gathering thousands of petition signatures in a brief period. They did their homework, adhered to the law, and made their voices heard. As I’ve reported in my column over the past several months, it was a David vs. gun-grabbing Goliath battle from the start.

Only after the local citizens got the ball rolling — catching flak from establishment-GOP types who initially opposed the disruptive process — did national organizations weigh in with help. And the campaign cash they provided was still no match for nosybody Bloomberg, Vice President Joe Biden (who personally lobbied state Democratic legislators), and their gun control-freak company.

The significance of this unprecedented battle cannot be overstated. Self-government won. Demagoguery lost. All the Bloomberg bucks in the world couldn’t buy immunity for his water-carriers in Colorado. The role of Second Amendment–supporting, limited-government-advocating local women in pushing back against false smears was invaluable. The “reproductive rights” fear-mongering failed. And the use of social media to organize echoed other successful tea-party efforts.

The problem for the gun-grabbers wasn’t that the voters were uninformed. It was that they were too informed. Voters paid close attention when state Democrats rigged the game during the legislative debate over extreme gun and ammo restrictions that will do nothing to stop the next Aurora, Columbine, or Newtown. They watched fellow citizens being blocked from testifying, pushed aside for out-of-staters. They heard Morse accuse gun owners of having a “sickness in their souls.” They heard him brag to liberal zealots that he was ignoring their “vile” e-mails.

They rejected Giron’s sneering at grassroots organizers as “special interests.” They didn’t buy that their birth control would disappear. They weren’t swayed by shooting victim Gabby Giffords’ husband’s emotional appeals or distracted by Bill Clinton’s last-minute robocalls.

“What happened?” The reasons these petty tyrants lost are as simple as ABC: arrogance, bitterness, and contempt for the people. As more and more self-empowered citizens are learning, you can’t fix this stupid hubris. But you can vote it out.

Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies. © 2013 Creators.Com.

US Government Used Chem. Weapons on Own Citizens Killing Over 70, Including Children


Welcome and thank you for stopping by. Please be aware and advised, this is a CONSERVATIVE BLOG. Here is some information and my rules:

1) I do not like Liberal Ideology;

2) Conservatives have the voice of reason on my blog;

3) I will delete any comments that are abusive, non-related to the “blog theme” and not debated in a civil manner;

4) I welcome input from all walks of life. However, this is my blog and I will make the “ultimate” decision on any/all comments.

I encourage “civil” discussion. We may not agree on “ideology”. However, we can agree on “respect” and at least listening to different perspectives. Thank you for visiting!

This is a Reblogged from Intellihub.com 

Posted by JG Vibes

Many have quickly forgotten that not long ago the US government used chemical weapons on American citizens, killing more than 70 men, women and children.

waco

The United States government takes a very strong stance on the use of chemical weapons when it is convenient for them and aligned with their own political interests.  However, the US government has been involved with many covert operations overseas where they funded groups who used chemical weapons, and propped up dictators who were carrying out genocides.

In the case of Waco, Texas and the Branch Davideans the US government actually used chemical weapons on families and children.

As whatreallyhappened.com recently pointed out:

On February 28, 1993, the BATF raided the church of the Branch Davideans in Waco Texas. This led to an embarrassing sand of which ended when the FBI gassed the church, filled with women and children, with CS gas. CS gas is actually illegal to use on enemy troops in time of war. but the US Government authorized its use against that church. Even worse, the CS gas was mixed with a chemical dispersant, methylene chloride. Methylene chloride is highly toxic. It’s the chemical used to melt plexiglas so that it can be bent into shapes such as the shields over salad bars. And, of course, it also melts lung tissue. The official story is that the Branch Davideans set fire to their church (even though blinded and gasping for breath from the CS and burned themselves alive rather than surrendering. However none of the autopsied remains showed any signs of smoke inhalation in the lungs, meaning they were already dead when the fire started.

The women and children inside that church were gassed to death with a poison gas that is illegal to use on enemy troops.[1]

The following documentary breaks down every detail of the attack:

WACO Video

 

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