Investigation launched into ATF sting - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Investigation launched into ATF sting that used brain-damaged man

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MILWAUKEE (WKOW) -- There's an internal investigation into an ATF sting after documents show a brain-damaged man with a low IQ was used by agents to run gun and drug deals, then charged with federal gun and drug counts.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained documents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that showed ATF agents paid Chauncey Wright in cigarettes, merchandise and money to promote "Fearless Distributing" by handing out fliers that recommended a certain store to friends, family and strangers. But that store was an undercover operation used by ATF agents to nab criminals.

The Journal Sentinel reports Wright was unaware of the undercover operation, and once it was shut down, Wright himself was charged in the sting.

"I have never heard of anything so ludicrous in my life," Greg Thiele told the Journal Sentinel. He spent 30 years working for the Milwaukee Police Department including on undercover stings with federal agents, including those with the ATF. "Something is very wrong here."

The newspaper reports Wright's IQ measures in the 50s, about half of a normal IQ, classifying him as mildly or moderately disabled.

According to a plea agreement, when Wright is sentenced in June, prosecutors will recommend probation based on his "mental functioning."

The ATF sting has been marred by problems, including the theft of ATF guns, and a loss of nearly $40,000 in merchandise.

Members of both parties in Congress are seeking answers to what happened. The ATF has launched an internal investigation. An ATF spokeswoman declined to comment because its investigation is not complete.

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