ATF priorities: Smuggle guns to drug cartels, arrest cigarette smugglers

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms may have knowingly allowed thousands of guns to be trafficked across the U.S.–Mexican border in the botched Operation Fast and Furious, but don’t worry! The agency is busy keeping Americans safe from the scourge of cigarette trafficking.

The ATF announced Wednesday that, in conjunction with Georgia law enforcement agencies, it had executed seven search warrants and 50 arrest warrants as part of a three-year investigation for violations of state law involving the illegal possession, sale and distribution of contraband cigarettes.

“By working together as a cohesive unit, our law enforcement partners were able to identify and apprehend individuals participating in racketeering activity, which included defrauding the state and federal governments of revenue by evading cigarette and cigar excise taxes,” said Georgia State Attorney General Sam Olens. “These arrests send a strong message that if you do not play by the rules in Georgia, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

As the second word in its name implies, the ATF has jurisdiction over contraband and counterfeit tobacco products.

During fiscal year 2010, the ATF recommended 219 defendants for prosecution and seized approximately $63.2 million in contraband tobacco and alcohol, according to its website.

Since 2003, ATF has initiated a total of 1,052 tobacco diversion investigations, with an average of 131 investigations per year.

Meanwhile, between 2009 and 2010, the ATF facilitated the sale of at least 2,000 guns, knowing most would be smuggled into Mexico. The object of the operation was to track the guns as part of a sting operation. (RELATED: GOP reps directly press Obama on Fast and Furious)

The guns have since been linked to 179 crime scenes in Mexico as of June.

One such gun was used to shoot at a Mexican military helicopter, forcing it to land. Two AK-47s recovered by Mexican police were used by cartel members in the high-profile kidnapping of an attorney.

Two other guns allowed across the border were linked to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Only 600 of the 2,000 guns allowed to be walked over the border have been recovered by officials.

Luckily, the cartels were not getting their hands on something truly dangerous, like cartons of tax-free cigarettes.

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