The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ failure to properly secure a federal firearms destruction facility allowed a contracted security guard to steal guns, thousands of gun parts and ammunition, according to the Department of Justice watchdog.
Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said this week that “vulnerabilities” at the National Disposal Branch enabled Christopher Lee Yates to steal the items “undetected and without assistance from others.”
DHS contract security guards worked night and weekend shifts when branch employees were not present, which gave them “unfettered” access to secured areas at the facility, Mr. Horowitz said. And instead of shredding gun barrels, slides and cylinders, he said employees put them in unsecured bins to be sent to the scrap yard.
At one point, the shredder broke and employees sent weapons to a private contractor to destroy, but the contractor reportedly sent multiple shipments back “resulting in weapons remaining for days in unsecured boxes and unlocked containers.”
Yates admitted to stealing the items and said he sold many of them. He pleaded guilty in 2019 to theft of government property and possession of a stolen firearm and was sentenced to 14 years in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $300,000.
“To reduce the risk that the type of criminal conduct identified in this investigation happens again, the ATF must ensure that its procedures for the secure, accountable, and safe destruction of firearms are sufficient and effective,” Mr. Horowitz said.