Questions surround ATF stings in Portland and the U.S.

Questions surround ATF stings in Portland and the U.S. »Play Video
Jackie Greenfield

PORTLAND, Ore. - Jackie Greenfield says when a group rented part of the building she managed for her parents back in 2010, things couldn't have gone smoother. 

The place was called Squid’s Smoke Shop.

The tenants?

The tenants were agents from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Squid’s Smokeshop was a front for a sting operation aimed at trade in illegal guns.

“Their lease was up three months after they had left,” Greenfield said. "They still sent me a check for three months. So that's almost unheard of, that never happens with tenants.”

But what they left behind - rooms full of trash and garbage everywhere – shocked her.

“They had cut out in the wall from that unit to the next unit, the secret door, so that their agents could go back and forth," Greenfield said.

At a 2011 press conference, the ATF said the Portland location led to dozens of arrests and took more than 70 guns off the street.

But an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper branded ATF sting tactics as rogue.

In Portland, the newspaper reported, agents paid people $150 to get the Squid's Smokeshop logo tattooed on the back of their necks for advertising.They also set up their shop within 1,000 feet of H.B. Lee Middle School.

Charlisa Jackson runs a hair salon in the same complex. She says agents asked her husband if he knew anybody who could get them drugs.

She suspects they asked because her husband is black.

“It was insulting,” Charlisa says, “And so that's when I figured how they must have roped the other people into the situation.

"To know that they're not handling things properly really saddens me.”

In the end, the ATF wouldn't reimburse Jackie Greenfield for the damage agents left behind.

“Is it a good thing that the guns are off the street?” Greenfield said. “Sure.  Absolutely.  But at what extent did you go to, to get those?  I don't know.”

In a statement released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ATF Public Affairs Chief Ginger Colbrun said :“All of the cases at issue occurred before ATF implemented substantial reforms that in part resulted from our internal review of the storefront operation in Milwaukee.” 

As for an investigation by the Department of Justice Inspector General, Colbrun said: “If the Inspector General finds additional reforms are necessary to ensure investigative operations adhere to appropriate standards, we will work to implement them."