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Theft of Thousands of Guns, Parts from ATF Facility Reveals Serious Problems at Agency

File photo of guns, via ATF

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

ATF officials are being evasive about the theft of thousands of guns and firearm parts that were supposed to be destroyed.

Many of the guns had been seized by law enforcement, and others were retired service weapons from the ATF, FBI, DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies.

The weapons disappeared after being sent to the ATF’s National Firearms and Ammunition Destruction Branch in Martinsburg, W.Va., where they were supposed to be destroyed.

The case has exposed the ATF’s failure to keep track of guns sent to the facility and detect when weapons are stolen. The agency has declined to publicly reveal the extent of the thefts, and ATF officials have been evasive when questioned by Congress.

One of the suspects in the thefts, Christopher Yates, a guard at the ATF facility, has admitted stealing thousands of firearms, gun parts and ammunition before selling them. The 52-year-old, a contract employee for the ATF for 16 years, pleaded guilty in federal court in April to stealing government property. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in August.

Yates managed to steal the guns and parts for years without the ATF knowing.

The ATF has failed to provide detailed information on the thefts to Congress, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In a March 28 letter to senators, then-Acting ATF Director Tom Brandon cited Yates’ open case as a reason for failing to provide more information.

“We cannot at this time characterize the scope of the thefts from the Martinsburg facility,” wrote Brandon, who retired in April.

Senators are pledging to get to the bottom of the case.

“The ATF is tasked with protecting our communities and the theft of a substantial amount of weapons, parts and ammunition from ATF facilities raises significant concerns,” Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote in a statement to the Journal Sentinel. “Our committee is seeking a full accounting of this situation, and we hope the ATF will be as transparent as possible while we continue to pursue answers.”

Without a proper accounting of stolen guns, agents at each of the ATF’s 25 field offices have been assigned to search for stolen weapons. That search is taking resources away from fighting crime.

Cyberattack on CBP Exposes Facial Recognition Data on Thousands of Travelers

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal law enforcement defends the use of facial-recognition technology as a new tool to track down criminals, but a recent cyberattack of a Customs and Border Patrol subcontractor raises serious issues about privacy.

CBP acknowledged this week that the breach exposed facial-recognition data on thousands of people crossing the southern border, along with their license plates.

The disclosure comes less than a month after U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee hearings on facial-recognition systems prompted congressional members to call for a moratorium on the quickly growing technology.

“We shouldn’t be using the technology until we can be sure people’s rights are being protected,” Neema Singh Guliani, senior legislative counsel for the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said during a May 22 hearing. “By and large, people have been unaware of these systems and how they work.”

CBP said the subcontractor violated government regulations by uploading the images to its company network.

Off-Duty FBI Agent Shoots, Kills Veterinarian in Albuquerque Brewery

Cody Wrathall, via Facebook.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An off-duty FBI agent shot and killed a gun-wielding Utah man inside an Albuquerque brewery Saturday night, witnesses told police.

When the shooting happened, police were en route to the bar after a woman had alerted 911 that her ex-boyfriend was stalking her and was at Nexus Brewery.

“The female’s ex-boyfriend or ex-husband showed up and brandished a firearm inside the bar,” officer Simon Drobik told the Albuquerque Journal. “The agent saw that and stopped his actions basically by shooting. The individual was transported to the hospital and is deceased.”

The FBI agent was not detained, and police are still investigating. The FBI’s Inspection division is assisting.

Police identified the alleged gunman as Cody Guy Wrathall, 43, a veterinarian for large animals in northern Utah.

Although Wrathall doesn’t have a criminal history in New Mexico, he was disciplined by Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing for overdosing on Valium and Ketamine that he took from a veterinary clinic.

“Respondent had attempted to treat himself for depression and anxiety with the Ketamine and Valium,” according to the disciplinary documents. “While Respondent has been diagnosed and treated for depression and anxiety, Respondent did not possess a valid prescription for the Ketamine or Valium. Respondent obtained the Ketamine and Valium from a former veterinary practice that was dissolved in 2017.”

New Mexico allows law enforcement to have guns inside a bar as long as they are following their department or agency’s rules. FBI rules allow agents to be in possession of a weapon inside a bar.

Reputed Gang Member Accused of Shooting ATF Agent Is on Trial

Ernesto Godinez

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A trial is expected to begin today in the murder case of a reputed gang member accused of shooting an ATF agent in Chicago last year.

Prosecutors say Ernesto Godinez opened fire on the agent from an alley in the early morning hours of May, 4 2018, shooting him in the face, Fox 32 reports. Surveillance video spotted Godinez in the area shortly before the shooting.

The agent survived.

Prosecutors said Godinez, who was arrested three days later, believed he was shooting a rival gang member.

Godinez’s attorney acknowledges his client was in the area the morning of the shooting, but insists Godinez was not involved in the shooting.

A 12-person jury was selected Monday, and opening arguments are to begin Tuesday.

If convicted, Godinez could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison.

FBI Assists Dominican Republic with Mysterious Deaths of Americans

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is assisting authorities in the Dominican Republic investigate a string of American tourist deaths in recent months.

Six American tourists have died of unknown causes at resorts since late last year, CBS reports.

The first death involved a Maryland man who died while celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino late last year.

At the same resort in April, Robert Wallace became ill quickly after drinking a scotch from the minbar and died three days later.

At the Bahia Principe resort, Miranda Schaup-Werner and Yvette Monique Sport died of heart attacks, according to death certificates, but Sport’s sister, Felecia Nieves, is skeptical.

“We were promised within three months that we would receive a toxicology report. To this day, which is almost a year now, we’ve got nothing,” Nieves said.

Also at the Bahia Principe resort, Edward Holmes and Cynthia Day both died in their rooms after celebrating their engagements.

Of the nearly seven million tourists who visit the Dominican Republic, U.S. residents are the most common.

Border Patrol Agent Rescues Mother, Child from Swarm of Bees

Photo via Border Patrol

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

So many bees covered a Guatemalan mother protecting her child that a Border Patrol agent believed he saw a bundle of clothing.

What the agent actually witnessed were thousands of bees covering a mother who had been curled over her 8-year-old son to protect him in Texas.

“Upon closer investigation, the agent realized the bundle was a person curled up in the fetal position,” CBP said in a statement to CNN.

The agent called for the woman to seek shelter in his patrol car. At that point, the agent realized “the person was covering a small child.”

The woman and her son ran into the patrol car while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Once the child began vomiting, the unnamed agent rushed the mother and child to a hospital, where they were placed in an intensive care unit.

The mother and child are expected to recover and then be processed by immigration officials upon their release from the hospital.

House Dems Expect to Hold AG Barr in Contempt This Week over Mueller Report

Attorney General Barr testifying Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is expected to vote Tuesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress after he refused to turn over unredacted copies of the Robert Mueller report.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., issued a subpoena for the records, but Barr rejected it, and the White House invoked executive privilege over the document.

House Democrats also are expected Tuesday to support holding former White House counsel Don McGhan in contempt for refusing to testify before Congress or disclose documents. The White House has invoked executive privilege to prevent McGhan from testifying or releasing documents.

Democrats believe they have the votes to hold both men in contempt, which would enable the House members to file lawsuits in hopes that a judge will order Barr and McGhan to comply.

What’s unclear is how long it would take for a lawsuit to wend its way through the court systems.

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Elliot Ness Story