Iowa Police Chief arrested after selling black market military machine guns

Police departments in America have a lot of unnecessary military hardware, thanks to sweetheart deals between legislators and arms dealers that allow for layers of creative financial accounting as long as your weapons get "donated" after the armed forces no longer need them. On a good day, this means the police force in a town of 1,000 people might still be able to get its hands on some free hand-me-downs of Blackhawk helicopters and missile launchers — with no training, and regardless of whether the department has any intended purpose to use the equipment beyond "hey man this is cool." Why bother with boot camp basic training when all you need is a GED to play with a bazooka and get paid for it?

As if that wasn't bad enough, Bradley Wendt of Adair, Iowa came up with an even more repugnant scheme. As the police chief in a town of less than 800 people, he had access to some nifty guns, including at least one fully-automatic machine gun for every 10 citizens. These are weapons that are largely illegal for most US citizens to own without a special permit; and Wendt's police department mostly used them as fundraisers, letting citizens shoot them, for fun and profit.

Of course, a town that size doesn't actually have a lot of crime. So Wendt has a second job: on top of being police chief, he also owns and runs a gun store. And through his own gun shop, he then re-sold those machine guns to private citizens at high profit margins.

Nice work, if you can get it. Unfortunately for him, the ATF caught on (eventually, anyway). From the US Department of Justice:

According to unsealed court documents, Wendt, age 46, exploited his position as the Adair Chief of Police to acquire 10 machine guns purportedly for the official duties and responsibilities of the Adair Police Department, but later resold several of those machine guns at a significant profit.  Wendt also acquired 13 machine guns for his Denison-based gun store, BW Outfitters, through false statements to the ATF that the machine guns were being demonstrated for future potential purchase by the Adair Police Department.

Wendt also exploited his position as the Chief of Police to obtain 10 machine guns for Williams Contracting LLC, a federal firearms licensee operated by his friend, Robert Williams, age 46, of Manning. Williams solicited false documentation from Wendt indicating the Adair Police Department wanted a demonstration of each of the machine guns for future potential purchase by the Adair Police Department.

(Note that Adair's crime was not selling these guns, but rather, lying to the ATF)

Of course, the federal government did approve the transfers of all of these guns to the Adair Police Department in the first place. And no one seemed to raise an eyebrow at why an 800-person town might be in need of such heavy artillery. To their credit, I suppose, the ATF did deny a request for the Adair Police Department to obtain a rotary M134 minigun capable of firing 50 rounds per second … strictly on the grounds that the town did not yet own a military helicopter on which to mount it.

Adair Chief of Police Charged with Getting Machine Guns Through False Statements to the ATF [US Department of Justice]

Iowa police chief charged with lying to ATF to obtain machine guns for resale [William Morris and Noelle Alviz-Gransee / Des Moines Register]