West Virginia man sentenced for stealing firearms from ATF

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A West Virginia man has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing and reselling thousands of firearms from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). As CBS News first reported in March, it was an inside job. 

Christopher Lee Yates, a former contract security guard at an ATF facility, over the course of three years, between 2016 to 2019, stole thousands of firearms, gun parts and ammunition and then sold the weapons across the country, according to a press release by the West Virginia U.S. attorney’s office.  

This major breach of security was an embarrassing episode for the ATF, which launched a search across 49 of the 50 states for the firearms. As CBS News reported, some of the firearms parts were found on the streets of Philadelphia – fashioned into a gun. Hundreds of stolen firearms parts came from agents’ guns that were supposed to be disposed of by the ATF. 

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The ATF has recovered 4,625 of stolen firearms and firearms parts, according to the U.S. attorney’s press release, including 80 handguns, “including ATF duty weapons, 10 to 15 AR-style lower receivers, and four machine guns.”

Yates, who is 52 years of age, pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of stolen firearms and one count of theft of government property. In addition to the 14-year sentence, the judge in the case issued a $300,000 financial judgment against him.

When Yates was arrested, officials found “a firearm concealed in a book bag on the front passenger seat floorboard” when they searched his vehicle on March 1. Agents later determined the pistol had a serial number on it. The ATF computer system confirmed the firearm had been listed as “disposed” by the ATF’s National Disposal Branch on August 2017.

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