Report: ATF agents used secret funds for $21,000 NASCAR suite, Vegas trip

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF, used funds from a secret bank account to pay for outings and other expenses.

According to the media outlet, they include the rental of a $21,000 NASCAR suite, at least partial funding to attend a 2012 tobacco convention in Las Vegas, and donations to a school attended by an agent's daughter.

Based on the Times' review of records, credit card bills were also paid with money from the off-the-books account, but it remains unclear if they were personal or official in nature.

The legality of either use is questionable.

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According to the publication, millions of dollars in the fund, which was set up by agents in Bristol, Virginia, came from the sales of tobacco products.

It reports, "A.T.F. agents told the informants to buy untaxed cigarettes, mark up the cost and sell them at a profit."

The paper also notes, "Normally, agents use government-controlled funds known as 'churning accounts' to finance tobacco smuggling investigations. The new rules imposed greater oversight over churning accounts. By using the secret bank account, agents in Bristol avoided that oversight."

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The Times first reported about the secret bank account in February, and a House Oversight Committee investigation soon followed.

Thus far, the ATF has declined to answer many of the publication's questions, including who authorized the account's creation.