Audit: ATF Charged with Misusing $162 Million and Losing 420 Million Cigarettes

420 million is hardly a rounding error

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JOEL SAGET / AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps the only good thing about the imminent government shutdown is that some troubled federal entities will probably lose their operational budget and be forced to send everyone home. Take the ATF—Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which monitors the illegal trafficking and storing of the aforementioned substances and items. During the shutdown, you won’t be able to get your gun permits approved.

However, the shutdown probably won’t apply to rogue government agents who decide to conduct investigations, like the ones who allegedly lost track of 420 million illegally-sold cigarettes confiscated during sting operations.

As reported by Fox, a recent Justice Department audit concluded that the ATF also misused $162 million over a five-year period. How? For starters, close to $5 million were given to an informant who took part in the sting operations, selling cigarettes to criminals and then reporting it to the ATF.  The Justice Department investigator found it hard to believe that the $5 million were used to reimburse the informant’s expenses.

Even stranger is that the investigation into the ATF covers operations between 2006 and 2011, which raises the question of why nobody was curious about what the ATF was doing for 5 years. According to the Washington Post, an operation comically named “Fast and Furious” that was meant to track gun traffickers selling arms to Mexican drug cartels ended with the ATF having no clue where 2,000 weapons went.  The report managed to pinpoint some of the ATF’s expenses, which included a quarter of a million dollars used to rent a fleet vehicles for which there was no documented justifiable excuse or purpose.

The report also found that in 18 months the ATF made $15 million selling cigarettes in an unauthorized investigation, which makes the obvious point that it’s far easier to sell cigarettes to criminals and to operate outside of your organization’s framework than it is to fill out paperwork. It’s this sort of Dirty Harry-style politics that will tide us over during a government shutdown.

(MORE: Ted Cruz Reads ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ on Senate Floor — And That’s Not the Weird Part)