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Tag: ATF

Agent Tangles With ATF Over Troubles With Hells Angels

Jay Dobyns/his website

Jay Dobyns/his website

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — From one vantage point, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Jay Dobyns still worries about the Hells Angels coming after him. From another, it’s his employer he’s more concerned about.

Dobyns infiltrated the Hells Angels from 2001 to 2003 in Arizona and wrote a New York Times best-seller about it last year. But now he’s locked in major legal fisticuffs with the ATF.

A $4 million lawsuit filed by the 23-year ATF veteran says the agency failed to abide by a 2007 written contract to protect him and his wife and two children against death threats from the Hells Angels. The suit, unfolding now in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, also says the agency failed to stop subjecting him to a hostile work environment for complaining about his safety.

In August 2008, Dobyns’ Tucson, Ariz., home burned to the ground in an apparent arson. Two months later, he filed the breach of contract lawsuit. He currently lives out West with his family and works for the ATF as a program manager in the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.

“I honestly think at this point ATF has no idea how to handle threats against employees,” the 48-year-old agent said in a phone interview with AOL News. “Their solution is to write a check and transfer the agent.”

“I’ve been harassed since I voiced a complaint with the agency that they were ignoring their obligations” to protect him and his family, he said.

On Jan. 15, Judge Francis Allegra ruled that the breach-of-contract case should move forward. The Justice Department and the ATF filed a counterclaim two weeks later saying it was Dobyns, not the government, who was in violation of the contract and asking that the case be dismissed.

The counterclaim said Dobyns had violated agency rules by failing to get permission before he published a book in 2009, “No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels,” and signed movie rights with MGM. The Justice Department has asked the judge to rule that Dobyns must forfeit all the proceeds from his outside projects to the government.

Dobyns insists he had been given approval.

The ATF declined comment. A Justice Department spokesman said today that the department had no comment.

The fall from hero to heel in the ATF came in measured steps. In 2001, Dobyns, with shaved head and a generous stream of tattoos, went deep undercover — meaning he stayed in character 24/7 and didn’t go home at the end of the day. He infiltrated the Hells Angels in what was called “Operation Black Biscuit.”

“I wanted to do it,” he recalled. “No one held a gun to my head. I jumped at the job.”

From 2001 to 2003, he barely saw his wife and two children. Every day was frightening, he said.

“Absolutely. You have never-ending paranoia: ‘Have I made a mistake that I’m not even aware of?’ These are violent dudes, and if they find out that you’ve betrayed them, they’re going to put a box cutter to your throat and that’s the end of that.”

The gang was about to make him an official member, he said, after he and a colleague staged a fake murder of a rival bike gang member. Instead, the probe ended with indictments of more than a dozen Hells Angels. The charges ranged from murder to rape.

The prosecution was less successful. Some pleaded guilty, and lesser sentences were handed down. In some cases, the charges were dismissed altogether. Dobyns said internal disputes between prosecutors and the ATF over presenting evidence and exposing informants weakened the case.

After coming out of the deep undercover role, Dobyns said he became the ATF’s “golden boy” for his heroic work. But when he started complaining about the ATF’s lax response to threats, he suddenly became a malcontent and traitor.

The first reported threat came in 2004, according to his lawsuit, when a Hells Angel member in Tucson saw him on the street and said that he knew where Dobyns lived, that he had a wife and kids and that he was “going to get hurt.”

The same year, the suit says, a confidential source had a cellmate in Arizona, a Hells Angel whom Dobyns had put away, who wanted to murder Dobyns. In another instance, Dobyns said, prison officials intercepted a letter from a gang member who said he wanted to rape Dobyns’ wife and make Dobyns watch the videotape before he killed him.

Dobyns wanted the ATF to act, but he said the agency told him not to worry and that the man was behind bars.

“ATF didn’t not only knock on the guy’s jail bars, they ignored it,” he said. “Their response to me was ‘Don’t worry about it, this guy is locked up.'”

Dobyns said his reaction was “Are you kidding me? This guy has connections on the outside.”

By contrast, he said, the FBI would send someone to top mob guys after undercover agents were done with a case and say, “Those are our guys. They’re hands off. They better not receive a call at the house.”

Dobyns filed grievances internally, complaining of ATF’s lax response to the threats. He said the government moved him four times. He moved an additional seven times with his family at his own expense, “hoping to break the paper trail as to where I was at.”

Allegra, in his January ruling, noted that the Office of Inspector General at the Justice Department “opined that ATF should have taken threats against Agent Dobyns and his family ‘more seriously'” and that the agency “needlessly” delayed responding to them.

In 2007, ATF entered into a contract with Dobyns that promised to provide better protection and a hostile-free environment. It also agreed to give him $373,000 for all his troubles.

The next year, his Tucson home burned down at 3 a.m. one August night. His family escaped unharmed. He was in Phoenix at the time. In his suit, he says the ATF took over the case from the local sheriff’s department, but it did hardly anything before turning over the matter to the FBI.

Dobyns is quite certain it was the work of the Hells Angels. Since then, he said, he hasn’t received any real threats.

“I have concern for my life,” he said. “I’ve seen firsthand the violence and intimidation. I lived with it. I do not underestimate them. I don’t slough them off. But if I allow them to have me live in fear, then they’ve won. Then I’m Osama bin Laden living in the cave.”

As for his $4 million lawsuit, he said, “There’s not enough money in ATF’s budget to repay me for how my family has suffered.”

Calif. ATF Opens New Office in Imperial City to Help Combat Gun Trafficking to Mexico

govt photo

govt photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Los Angeles  has opened a new office in Imperial, Calif.,  to focus on Project Gunrunner, which targets illegal trafficking of arms to Mexico.

The ATF said the office, located  in the Southern California desert,  will include special agents, industry operations investigators and an intelligence research specialist.

“With the opening of our new office and the additional personnel assigned, ATF is significantly increasing its presence in the Imperial Valley,” Special Agent in Charge John A. Torres said in a statement. “We see ourselves as being part of this community and encourage the public to join us in a combined effort to rid our neighborhoods of gun traffickers and violent criminals.”

D.C. Gun Sting Had its Tense Moments; FBI and ATF Assisted

handgun-photoD.C. police are partially crediting this sting with the record low  homicide rate. The D.C. police worked with the FBI, which wired the store and ATF, which traced the guns.

By Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The three young men dressed in black walked into the Northeast auto body shop, talking fast, eager to make a deal: They had guns to sell.

Sgt. Dale Sutherland and Detective Franklyn Then sensed danger as one young man pulled out a silver handgun, unloaded the clip and laid it on the desk. Another kept his hand behind his back, and the third nervously stretched his arms above his head.

Ten officers and federal agents were on alert nearby in case of trouble. But Sutherland and Then were momentarily vulnerable. A phony storefront sting designed by D.C. police to build felony drug and weapons cases seemed on the verge of a robbery attempt. “They just kind of popped up on us,” said Then, who posed as a criminal middleman trying to ship guns to Mexico. “It didn’t feel good.”

For Full Story

Reputed Chicago Gang Member Charged With Killing ATF Informant

ChicagoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A reputed Chicago gang member was charged Tuesday with killing an ATF informant in 2006, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Spencer Martin, 32, a member of the Vice Lords, is accused of fatally shooting Earl Willis, 26. Willis’ body was found in a van on the city’s South side.

The paper reports that Martin and Willis allegedly robbed a North Side gas station and Martin shot someone.  Tests indicate the same gun was used to shoot Willis.

To read more click here.

Inspector Gen. Report Says FBI and ATF Sometimes Race to Be First to Explosive Scene

The Inspector General report simply confirms what’s already been reported and spoken of between agencies. In D.C., there  clearly have been turf battles between ATF and the FBI. One of those incidents occurred in 2003 when a North Carolina man with tractor threatened to set off explosives on the Mall in Washington. And that wasn’t the only one here.  It may build agency pride, but it’s bad for the public.

Burning car

By Terry Frieden
CNN Justice Producer
WASHINGTON – The inter-agency feuding between agents of the FBI and the ATF over handling of explosives investigations is so serious they sometimes race to be first on the scene of an explosives incident, a new report says.

The report – issued Friday by the Justice Department’s inspector general – found a major duplication of effort and strong disagreement about who has jurisdiction in investigations.

Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are agencies within the the Justice Department, and the department was sharply criticized by its inspector general, Glenn Fine, for failing to resolve the dispute.

“Our audit found, for example, that the FBI and ATF sometimes race to be the first federal agency on the scene of an explosives incident,” the report said. “Disputes have occurred when one agency arrives first and other agency believes the incident falls within its lead agency authority.”

For Full Story

Read Full Report

Feds Bust More than 50 Motorcyle Gang Members in Multi-State Case

Motorcycle gangs have gotten away with murder and violence for so long.  The busts are welcome news.

atf-logo

By Andrew Clevenger
The Charleston Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Federal authorities arrested more than 50 members and associates of the Pagan Motorcycle Club, including its national president and vice president, accusing the national biker gang of using violence and intimidation to control a multistate criminal organization.

Five officers of the gang, including President David Keith “Bart” Barbeito, 49, of Myersville, Md., and Vice President Floyd B. “Diamond Jesse” Moore, 64, of St. Albans, face federal racketeering charges.

The 44-count indictment, unsealed Tuesday, alleges members of the gang, under orders from Moore, kidnapped and beat a member of the Road Disciples Motorcycle Club in Huntington in 2003, in an attempt to extort money from the smaller club.

For Full Story

Read Press Release

ATF Initiative Helps Crack Down on Guns to Mexican Drug Cartels

This is a good good initiative. We just need more of these because the violent Mexican drug cartels aren’t going away, not so long as business remains brisk.

mexico-border-sign

By Juan A. Lozano
Associated Press Writer
HOUSTON- A four-month effort to stop the flow of firearms from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels has helped law enforcement disrupt various gun trafficking rings and gain a better understanding of how these groups try to avoid detection, officials announced Thursday.

Many weapons seized south of the border are traced back to Houston, where 100 agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other personnel were deployed in April to develop cases on trafficking firearms to Mexico.

ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson said the initiative vastly reduced a backlog of investigative leads and increased the number of criminal cases in Houston.

“While we can’t say we’ve solved the gun running problem to Mexico as a result of this (effort), it is a start and it certainly has made an impact here in Houston,” Melson told The Associated Press after a news conference.

For Full Story

Read Justice Department Press Release

Watchdog Group Criticizes ATF For Not Doing Enough to Crack Down on Tobacco Sales Fraud

marlboro_fullBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) lacks coordination and is not doing nearly enough to crack down on the fraud involved in the distribution and sales of tobacco that amounts to more $5 billion in lost U.S.  taxes a year and is sometimes linked to terrorism and organized crime, according to a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General.

“ATF has placed a lower priority on its alcohol and tobacco diversion mission area compared with other mission areas involving firearms, arson and explosives,” the report said.

“We found that ATF’s diversion efforts are ad hoc , that ATF personnel we interviewed lacked a clear understanding of the scope of diversion activity across field divisions, and that ATF headquarters does not adequately support the field divisions’ diversion investigations.”

“In addition, we found that no systematic method exists to share intelligence or information specifically about diversion between the field and headquarters, which adds to ATF’s lack of knowledge of the overall level of diversion activity in the nation.”

Read more »