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Report: ATF illegally used secret account for a NASCAR suite, a Vegas trip, and more

ATF agents allegedly utilized a secret account for personal reasons and leisurely activities. (Getty Images)

MSN is reporting that agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used a secret government account for personal reasons, including a $21 thousand dollar NASCAR suite, a trip to Las Vegas, and donating money to the school of one of the agent's children.

According to MSN, records show that the secret account, opened by ATF informants Jason Carpenter and Christopher Small, had been utilized since 2011. The bureau has refused to say who had authorized the account, but it was regarded as a "hybrid account" of both government and private funds according to one government official. This combination is not legally authorized, as government officials are prohibited under federal law from using private accounts to supplement their budgets.

ATF Supervisor Ryan Kaye is quoted in public court documents saying that the account was created under "verbal directive" by unidentified officials at the headquarters.

While expenses were charged to the account that would normally be covered within the ATF's budget, documents show that the account was used for leisure and personal activities as well, such as using the account to pay off credit card bills.

Other expenses, such as renting a 16-person suite at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, had no obvious connection to law enforcement operations. A.T.F. agents, along with some community members, used the suite in 2012 for the Irwin Tools Night Race, a Nascar event, according to two people who worked closely with the bureau at the time. A receipt obtained by The Times shows the suite cost $21,000.

Agents also donated money from the account, according to documents and interviews, including thousands of dollars to the high school and volleyball team of the daughter of an A.T.F. agent in Bristol. The agent, Thomas Lesnak, is now retired and did not respond to messages seeking comment. He has previously dismissed suggestions that anything was done improperly.

The account was apparently funded by profits from an undercover ATF operation in which informants bought untaxed cigarettes, hiked up the price, and sold them for a profit. The operation made millions of dollars from these illegal transactions, and the funds were then put into the account in question.

Usually, agents use government-controlled "churning accounts" to help supplement tobacco smuggling investigations. These accounts allow for greater oversight. However, due to this secret "management account," ATF agents were able to bypass many of the rules, and avoid oversight.


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