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Fake police got $1 million in surplus military hardware

A fictitious federal agency obtained these excess Defense Department items
A fictitious federal agency obtained these excess Defense Department items

Credit: Lois Norder

Credit: Lois Norder

Police have scooped up M16s, armored vehicles, grenade launchers and other military equipment - billions of dollars worth - declared surplus by the Department of Defense.

Georgia law enforcement agencies have gotten their fair share, more than $13.8 million worth last year alone.

 Mine resistant vehicle. Defense Dept. photo by William D. Moss
Mine resistant vehicle. Defense Dept. photo by William D. Moss

Credit: Lois Norder

Credit: Lois Norder

The bounty includes 11 mine resistant vehicles -- average value $740,090 -- that went to Georgia law enforcement departments, from the tiny Waycross Police to the Fulton County Sheriff.

Now, fake police have tapped the program for $1.2 million of military hardware. The haul included night vision goggles, simulated rifles and simulated pipe bombs that could be lethal if modified with commercially available items.

The fake federal agency was created by the Government Accountability Office to test safeguards in the excess property program managed by the Defense Logistics Agency.

Using a fake name, fake information on the number of employees and a fake location, undercover GAO investigators submitted an application to the Law Enforcement Support Office program. The investigators also created a website and email for the fictitious agency.

In response, the fake agency was asked to confirm its authorizing statute. It cited fictitious authorizing provisions presented as part of the U.S. Code.

That's all it took -- no one phoned or visited to verify information.

So the fake agency then submitted requests for controlled property -- sensitive equipment that cannot be released to the public. A few days later, the fake agency was approved for transfer of more than 100 items, ranging in value from $277 to $600,000.

An undercover investigator next scheduled appointments and visited three sites where the property was stored. Using fake ID and fake law enforcement credentials, the investigator passed security checks and entered the warehouse sites. Then, the investigator obtained not only the approved items but additional ones as well, GAO revealed in a recent report.

Defense Department officials agreed changes are needed. In response to the GAO's findings, they say some reforms already have been implemented. That hasn't satisfied members of Congress, though, according to a report in The Atlantic.

One congresswoman's complaint: There's not enough red tape to get the equipment!

Read more on the GAO findings, including the agency's scrutiny of Georgia agencies, by clicking here:

The AJC is continuing to keep an eye on how Georgia agencies are using the military surplus program. Read prior coverage by clicking here:

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