by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:ATLANTA —
Federal agents said they've taken nearly 300 guns and dozens of criminals off of the
street by running a fake business in southwest Atlanta.
Undercover agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked with Atlanta police officers to set up a bogus storefront along Metropolitan Parkway.
The store, called Metro Mobile Safes, was in operation for about 10 months.
"We consider something like this in the short amount of time we were operating a very good return on investment," said Scott Sweetow, Special Agent in Charge of Atlanta's ATF division.
The agents paid out about $150,000 in cash for all of those weapons.
The money came from federal funds designated for undercover activities.
After learning of a West African drug and gun trafficking organization operating in Southwest Atlanta, the ATF partnered with Atlanta police in
"Operation Trap Door."
"You can't do it alone, Atlanta is too big. There's too much violent crime," Sweetow said.
United States Attorney Sally Quinlan Yates called the operation a success.
"They put the word on the street that they were interested in buying guns and drugs, and the criminals came knocking," Yates said.
When asked if Yates was worried about any of the 60 defendants possibly claiming they were entrapped, she disclosed that the store was outfitted with surveillance cameras which captured all of the transactions.
"We're not concerned about that at all, and I think once the defense attorneys see the
videotapes they won't really be concerned about that either," Yates added.
Sweetow said the fake store looked so legitimate, occasionally real customers would come in and want to buy the items the officers were selling. He would not disclose what kind of store it was.
But he said his undercover agents and Atlanta police officers were in danger every day, encountering murderers, sex offenders,
robbers and drug dealers.
"They did not come to this storefront to sell us
Bibles or Blue Bell ice cream. These are some dangerous folks," Sweetow said.
Among the nearly 300 guns, 45 were found to be stolen. One was tied to a murder.
Sweetow called the operation a game of patience.
"Unless you just want to pick off
low-level people, to be really effective and impact violent crime in the entire city, you have to take the long eye toward some of this stuff," he said.
The undercover officers actually had to let the criminals leave the store after all of those transactions so they didn't risk blowing their own cover.
They went early Wednesday morning to arrest as many as they could find, and they said there are more arrests to come.