Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "sting operation" ...

  • Something Suspicious in District 9

    Allegations of fraud led North Carolina’s Board of Elections to refuse to certify November election results from the 9th Congressional district. Our investigation revealed a complex ballot-harvesting operation, with people paid to collect absentee ballots from voters -- an act that is illegal in North Carolina.
  • Direkt36: Russian arms dealers

    Two Russian arms dealers operating in Hungary, Vladimir Lyubishin Sr. and Jr., were apprehended as a result of a U.S. DEA sting operation in late 2016. The Lyubishins wanted to supply a Mexican drug cartel with weapons to protect shipments of cocaine against US authorities and rival gangs. In reality, the Russians were negotiating with paid DEA informants. After the arrests, however, the Lyubishins managed to escape US justice thanks to Hungary’s Kremlin-friendly government as Hungary denied Washington’s request for extradition and sent the two arms dealers to Moscow instead. The operation as well as the extradition scandal was kept secret and was first revealed by my story.
  • The Narco-Terror Trap

    This project traces the Drug Enforcement Administration’s use of a little-known statute of the Patriot Act to create a role for itself in the war on terror, based largely on unsubstantiated assertions that terrorists were using the drug trade to finance attacks against the United States. The statute, adopted with broad bi-partisan support, allows the D.E.A. to pursue so-called narco-terrorists anywhere in the world, even when none of their alleged crimes occurred on American soil. Between 2002 and 2008, the agency’s budget for foreign operations increased by some 75 percent, which supported expansions into Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, and West Africa. But an examination of the D.E.A.’s narco-terrorism cases reveals that most unraveled as they proceeded through court. The cases relied heavily on sting operations, and the only evidence of any links between terrorists and traffickers was concocted by the D.E.A., which used highly-paid informants to lure targets into staged narco-terrorism conspiracies. The first piece tells the story of three small-time smugglers from Mali who were arrested in West Africa, transported to New York and accused as narco-terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda. It explains how the D.E.A.’s narco-terrorism campaign began in the arrest-first-ask-questions-later period that followed 9/11. And it details the negligible contributions that the effort, whose total cost remains unknown, has made to keeping the country safe from either terrorists or drug traffickers. Nearly three years after the Malian’s arrest, a judge found that the men were not linked to Al-Qaeda, and that they had been motivated to participate in the D.E.A.’s fake conspiracy by an informant’s offer to pay them millions of dollars. The second piece uses an interactive comic – ProPublica’s first – to bring a sharper focus to the patterns in the DEA’s cases. It uses five different narco-terrorism operations in five different parts of the world. The interactivity of the comic allows readers to see how the agency’s stings use essentially the same script in order to make disparate targets fit the designated crime. https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/narco
  • License to Launder: Cash, cops and cartels: A Miami Herald investigation

    The Miami Herald's License to Launder exposed an undercover police task force that turned a sting operation into an unchecked cash machine for police and their informants, laundering $71.5 million for drug cartels -- reaping millions in profits for brokering the deals -- then returned the rest to the same criminal groups without making a single arrest.
  • A "sting" buried

    The Philadelphia Inquirer triggered arrests, legislative reforms, ethics investigations, resignations – and political turmoil statewide – after the newspaper revealed that Pennsylvania’s attorney general had secretly shut down an undercover investigation that had caught public officials on tape taking money or gifts. In late 2013, state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane secretly shut down a sting operation that had captured officials on tape accepting cash from an operative posing as a lobbyist ostensibly seeking political influence and government contracts. Her decision was kept from the public – restricted under court seal – for months until Inquirer reporters Craig R. McCoy and Angela Couloumbis broke the story. Their initial package sparked a statewide furor – and set the stage for months of additional investigative pieces and news developments.
  • Informants

    “Informants” tells the stories of three paid FBI informants who posed as Muslims as they searched for people interested in joining violent plots concocted by the FBI. With extraordinary access to FBI agents and their informants, as well as undercover recordings, Al Jazeera’s documentary raises questions about whether the men targeted would have acted at all were it not for the paid informants working on the cases. It also brings into question one of the government’s favored domestic counter-terrorism tools after 9/11. The film features never-before-seen video from FBI undercover sting operations and interviews with three former FBI informants; reveals new information about the crimes FBI informants committed while working for the government; exposes how the FBI targeted one young man for recruitment as an informant; features an exclusive interview with a man convicted on terrorism charges in one of the highest-profile federal cases of the last decade; and reveals the identity of one of the FBI’s secret informants. “Informants” is an evocative documentary that breaks new ground covering and questioning U.S. national security policy.
  • Backfire

    The investigation revealed that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) employed rogue tactics in undercover storefront strings in Milwaukee and across the country, including using those with mental disabilities to promote the operations – and then turning around and charging them with gun and drug crimes. The investigation found ATF agents set up operations near schools and churches, allowing them to arrest people on more serious charges; let felons armed with guns leave the fake storefronts; paid such high prices that people bought guns from stores and then quickly sold them to agents; bought stolen goods, spurring burglaries in the area; arrested and charged the wrong people; and drew in juveniles by allowing them to play video games, smoke marijuana and drink alcohol; failed to employ sufficient security, allowing sting storefronts to be burglarized; carelessly handled sensitive documents containing undercover officer’s names and vehicle information; and left behind damaged rental properties, failing to pay landlords for repairs. In Milwaukee, an ATF agent’s guns were stolen, including an automatic machine gun, which has not been recovered. The sting operations were part of an ATF initiative meant to go after “the worst of the worst” and target areas beset by violent crime. But in the Milwaukee operation and elsewhere, the defendants largely had nonviolent criminal backgrounds. Even a federal prosecutor criticized the ATF for the kinds of people targeted.
  • Backfire

    The investigation revealed that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) employed rogue tactics in undercover storefront strings in Milwaukee and across the country, including using those with mental disabilities to promote the operations – and then turning around and charging them with gun and drug crimes. The investigation found ATF agents set up operations near schools and churches, allowing them to arrest people on more serious charges; let felons armed with guns leave the fake storefronts; paid such high prices that people bought guns from stores and then quickly sold them to agents; bought stolen goods, spurring burglaries in the area; arrested and charged the wrong people; and drew in juveniles by allowing them to play video games, smoke marijuana and drink alcohol; failed to employ sufficient security, allowing sting storefronts to be burglarized; carelessly handled sensitive documents containing undercover officer’s names and vehicle information; and left behind damaged rental properties, failing to pay landlords for repairs. In Milwaukee, an ATF agent’s guns were stolen, including an automatic machine gun, which has not been recovered. The sting operations were part of an ATF initiative meant to go after “the worst of the worst” and target areas beset by violent crime. But in the Milwaukee operation and elsewhere, the defendants largely had nonviolent criminal backgrounds. Even a federal prosecutor criticized the ATF for the kinds of people targeted.
  • TSA Theft

    In the first nationwide investigation into a burgeoning problem of theft within the Transportation Security Administration since its inception in 2003, the ABC News Investigative Team compiled compelling data obtained through FOI requests, an insider’s tell-all, victim stories and its own tracking integrity test at TSA checkpoints that resulted in immediate impact and calls for swift change. The TSA, tasked with protecting the traveling public in the wake of the September 11 attacks, admitted during the course of our investigation that it had quietly fired hundreds of its employees for stealing the belongings of passengers. The ABC News team conducted a tracking integrity test at 10 major airports across the country, each chosen for its history of theft problems (as indicated by FOI data). We purposefully left iPads at TSA security checkpoints. In nine out of ten cases, TSA screening officers did exactly what they were supposed to do and returned the iPad to the ABC News Investigative team. But in one case, our iPad was taken and we tracked it using GPS technology to the home of a TSA officer (the last person our cameras in the Orlando airport also saw handling the device). The investigation resulted in the officer’s dismissal, thousands of responses from viewers across the country, and immediate calls from Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman John Mica for reform within the agency. The TSA began conducting additional sting operations, during which a TSA officer was caught and fired in December.
  • D.C. Government Investigations

    The Legal Times series looks into the social and criminal justice problems in Washington. Some included findings that the U.S. Attorney's Office hid details about suspect drug buys by an informant during a major sting operation. Other atricles discuss the suicides of two mentally ill patients in a D.C. jail, and imprisonment of local inmated past their release dates.