Jul 24, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Pentagon sold $1.2 million worth of military weapons to fake cops

Eduardo Verdugo / AP

The Government Accountability Office, which audits other federal agencies to uncover instances of fraud and abuse of power, set up an undercover operation to determine whether the Department of Defense would sell military-grade equipment to unauthorized buyers, per The Marshall Project.

The GOA created a fake law enforcement agency — accompanied with a faux website claiming it did high-level security and counterterrorism work, and an address that led to an empty parking lot — and applied for the gear. Within a week the agency said in a report that its fake cops received $1.2 million worth of night vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb equipment from the DoD's 1033 Clinton-era program.

"They never did any verification, like visit our 'location,' and most of it was by email," Zina Merritt, director of the GAO's defense capabilities team, told The Marshall Project. "It was like getting stuff off of eBay."

1033 program: The Clinton-era program enables local cops to obtain equipment not being used by the U.S. military. Following Ferguson, Barack Obama issued an executive order rolling back the scope of the program, and ordered law enforcement agencies requesting military gear to undergo training and agree to oversight procedures.

What's next: The GAO report says the DoD has vowed to crack down on its verification procedures, and will now try to visit the location of agencies that apply to the program. The department will also complete an internal fraud assessment by April 2018.

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