A federal judge has criticized the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for sting operations that he said unfairly enlist people in a “made-up crime” by offering them a huge payday for robbing a non-existent drug stash house, reports USA Today. Declaring those tactics “outrageous” and unconstitutional, U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright in Los Angeles took the unusual step of throwing out charges against a man arrested by ATF agents after one such sting. “Society does not win when the Government stoops to the same level as the defendants it seeks to prosecute — especially when the Government has acted solely to achieve a conviction for a made-up crime,” Wright wrote on March 10.
He said the stings have done little to deter crime and instead are “ensnaring chronically unemployed individuals from poverty-ridden areas.” The ATF has quietly made those fictional stash-house robbery cases a central feature of its efforts to target violent criminals, more than quadrupling the number of stings it conducted over the past decade. Although the stings are meant to target some of the nation’s most dangerous criminals, they routinely ensnare small-time crooks who jump at the chance to score a small fortune from a few hours of work.