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Lenient Sentences and Weak Laws Frustrate ATF’s Battle Against Gun Trafficking

By Jeffrey Anderson
For ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Nutveena Sirirojnananont is staring at a possible 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for ordering eight guns online that she directed to a federally-licensed firearms dealer in New Hampshire, but she’s all but guaranteed a fraction of that.

The Newmarket, NH, woman pleaded guilty in January to purchasing the weapons from Suds and Soda Sports, a licensed gun dealer in Greenland, NH, and using intermediaries to ship the weapons to associates in California, Florida and New York, who then shipped them to Thailand.

Sirirojnananont pocketed a 15 percent markup on the guns, which she sold through her online beauty-supply export business, cheapshop4you.com, in Portsmouth, and through an EBAY business called the PookyWookyShop. Sentencing is set for May 5.

The prospect of a light sentence isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s more the rule than the exception in gun trafficking cases around the country, a point that frustrates the top gun enforcement agency, ATF, to no end.

The chief problem, ATF officials say, is that there is no comprehensive federal statute in place that expressly outlaws gun trafficking and so-called “straw purchases” in which third parties buy weapons for people, often affiliated with crime organizations.

Paperwork Violations 

Instead, ATF says it’s forced to rely on “paperwork” violations such as making a false statement on the forms required to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer.

“Currently there is not a firearm trafficking law,” says ATF Agent Timothy Graden, a spokesman for the agency. “Trafficking cases typically involve people with little or no criminal history, therefore allowing them to buy firearms and then divert them to the criminal element.”

Consequently, there are cases all around the country in which people get off light for gun trafficking. Some even get probation.

Such is the case of Neil Smith, of Little Rock, AR, who got off last year with felony probation after ATF agents purchased seven firearms from him. Smith later admitted to illegally selling between 50 and 100 guns for profit.

In St. Paul, MN, Paul De La Rosa, who purchased over 119 firearms that he trafficked to Mexico, allegedly to a drug cartel, received just 36 months in prison.

And then there’s the more highly publicized case of Denver woman Stevie Vigil, who in March was sentenced to less than three years in prison, after pleading guilty to buying and transferring a firearm to a convicted felon and prison gang member who used the gun to murder Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements at his home, and a Dominos pizza delivery man named Nathan Leon.

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FBI to Hire 1,000 People by Oct. 1 But Still Far from Filling 2,500 Vacancies

James Comey

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director James Comey said the bureau plans to hire 1,000 people by Oct. 1 – a move meant to fill some of the 2,500 vacancies.

“I’m looking to hire 1,000 people to start to fill those almost 2,500 vacancies that we have – hundreds of special agents and intelligence analysts to restock that magic of the FBI, which is our talent,” Comey said.

Comey blamed the shortage of employees on the sequester.

“Everywhere around the country, I heard from my folks about the difficulties they were encountering with vacancies, with limitations on gas, with the abolition of training, with Quantico being a ghost town,” Comey said. “And thanks to this committee and other members of the Senate and the House, that changed in late January when the budget was passed.”

FBI Investigates High-Speed Investors Accused of Potential Market Manipulation

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating high-speed trading firms to determine whether they are engaged in insider trading, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The investigation was launched a year ago but remains in the early stages.

Among the focuses is whether high-speed investors are trading using information that others can’t access.

Investigators also are investigating a type of trading in which investors create the false appearance of market activity by placing a group of trades and then canceling them.

“There are many people in government who are very focused on this and who are concerned about it and who think it breaks the law,” an FBI spokesman said. “There is a big concern that high-frequency traders are getting material nonpublic information ahead of others and trading on it.”

Federal Government Allows ATF Official to Collect Two Salaries While on Leave

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A key figure in the Fast & Furious gun-running operation was permitted to collect two salaries while on leave from his federal government job, the Washington Times reports.

The Justice Department’s inspector general created the report after finding that three of William McMahon’s superiors with the ATF “exercised poor judgment” by allowing McMahon to collect his salary while also working for JP Morgan when he was on leave.

The two jobs also created a conflict of interest, the inspector general found.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 


Book Review: ”Long Mile Home,’ Recounts Boston Marathon Bombing Investigation

By Aamer Madhani
USA Today

On the first-year anniversary of a national tragedy, it’s inevitable for the so-called definitive account to be rolled out by publishers calculating that enough time has passed for an author to have developed perspective, but not so much time that the calamity is no longer fresh in the public’s conscience.

Publishing houses are, more often than not, wrong. Too often, readers, including this one, feel burned by investing time and cash in what too frequently reads like notebook dumps by journalists on the front line of a big story. The works ultimately don’t stand the test of time.

But with Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, The City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice, The Boston Globe‘s Scott Helman and Jenna Russell prove there are exceptions.

Long Mile Home, which arrives just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is a riveting piece of journalism and an exceptional tribute to a great American city that manages to avoid being sentimental or syrupy.

Helman and Russell, two of the Globe‘s best reporters, relied heavily on their colleagues’ outstanding coverage of the bombing and the aftermath in weaving a narrative around several principal characters.

FBI on Hunt for Man Planning ‘Fort Hood-inspired Jihad’ Against U.S. Troops

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Authorities are on the hunt for a recent Army recruit accused of planning a “Fort Hood-inspired Jihad against U.S. soldiers,” Fox News reports.

A man identified as Booker told his friends of his intentions. He’s also known as Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, Fox News reports.

The suspect was scheduled to be part of basic training on April 7 but was discharged last week after making the threats.

The FBI and the 902d Military Intelligence Group at Fort Leavenworth are involved in the search.

An alert was distributed through the U.S. Marine Corps.

FBI Agents Association Says Rep. Mike Rogers “Never Forgot the Men and Women of the Bureau”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI always seemed to appreciate having one of its own in Congress.

So when Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich), the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, announced he was retiring to host a nationally syndicated radio show, the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) wanted to show some appreciation.

President Reynaldo Tariche issued a statement on Monday, saying:

“The FBIAA and our 12,000 active duty and retired Agents thank Chairman Rogers for his many years of public service and for his support of Agents over the years. Agents knew that they had a strong voice in Congress thanks to Chairman Rogers.

“He started his career as an FBI Special Agent and though he left the FBI in 1995 to start his political career, he never forgot the men and women of the Bureau and has been a champion for Agents since his election to Congress. He will be missed and we wish him well in his new career in the private sector.”

Ex-Secret Service Agent: Lousy Leadership – Not Alcohol – Is Agency’s Real Prolem

By Dan Emmett
Washington Post

These are disturbing days for the agency charged with protecting the president of the United States. From prostitutes in Colombia to drunkenness in Amsterdam, it is no wonder that so many members of Congress — as well as former agents — have lost patience with a Secret Service that can’t seem to stay out of the news with embarrassing and high-profile cases of misconduct.

I was a Secret Service agent for 21 years, spent two tours of duty on the Presidential Protective Division and four years on the Counter Assault Team (CAT), and was part of trips for three presidents. I retired 10 years ago and have no dog in today’s agency fights. I do not believe that alcohol abuse is a cultural problem within the Secret Service. (In fact, many agents do not drink at all, and those who do tend to consume in moderation.)

The problem in the agency is not alcohol or debauchery, but weak leadership. There are too many incompetent managers who want the title, pay and perks of management while performing no duties of leadership. The problem is not bad Secret Service agents but bad leaders of Secret Service agents.

The United States Secret Service was created in 1865 and began protecting the president in 1902. During 110 years of presidential protection, the agency accompanied presidents on hundreds of thousands of domestic and overseas trips without bringing any unwanted attention upon itself. That is because, in my experience, agents tend to be intelligent, well-trained and fiercely patriotic Americans — nearly fanatical in their devotion to the mission at hand.

Yet, history shows that even the best units perform poorly with poor leaders, and the Secret Service is a prime example. The most disturbing common thread among the recent episodes of misconduct is that supervisors or team leaders have been involved. While it is unacceptable for any agent to commit infractions such as those in Amsterdam and Colombia, it is utterly inexcusable for those in charge to be involved. If managers show continued lapses in judgment, how and why would anyone expect the rank and file to behave better?

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