ATF sting nets mentally handicapped man

April 7, 2013 at 4:36 PM

MILWAUKEE, April 7 (UPI) -- Federal agents lured a mentally handicapped Milwaukee man into a drug- and gun-buying sting that advocates for the mentally ill said crossed the line.

Chauncey Wright, who has an IQ in the 50s, about half the score of an average person, was lured into a sting operation run by undercover agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when he came across them handing out fliers advertising a store and asked them for a job. The store was a set up, though, meant to catch people illegally selling guns and drugs, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Wright, his family said, thought the agents were his friends and complied when they asked him to hand out fliers for the store and procure guns and drugs.

"That's just hugely inappropriate. It's no different than using a kid," said Jim Hoegemeier, executive director of the Arc-Wisconsin Disability Association. "They had to have known after working with him for more than a couple of hours" he was handicapped.

An investigation into the operation by the Journal Sentinel found other problems. ATF agents were trying to engage in illegal gun transactions but offered sometimes double retail price for the weapons, leading some to buy them at local sporting goods stores and immediately resell them to agents for a profit, the report said.

Though 145 people in all have been charged following the operation, only a handful face anything more than small-time drug-related offenses, the Journal Sentinel said.

Prosecutors, acknowledging Wright's mental disabilities, said they have modified their plea deal and will recommend he face probation rather than the potential life in prison federal sentencing guidelines permit.

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