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Accountant: Undercover cigarette sting was poorly documented

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Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-27 20:38:30-05

An accountant found the undercover cigarette sting in Hampton was poorly documented, and many of the purchases associated with it couldn't be backed up with receipts.

An 83-page report was presented to the Hampton City Council Wednesday afternoon.

It was conducted by accountant Robert Bielat at the request of the city.

"We were asked to determine whether supporting invoices existed for the discernments,” says Bielat.

Those documents were not found to track the purchases and thousands of dollars spent as part of a 19-month long undercover cigarette sting.

Many of the purchases almost a half million dollars’ worth in fact had no documentation at all.

The only purchases that could be proven, according to the report, were the cigarettes that were to be used in the sting.

"What's interesting about it is the lack of forthrightness from the police department with the citizens is what was going on. In a way, it doesn't surprise me in a covert operation such as this,” says Bielat.

The 19-month operation began in 2010 as a joint effort between the Hampton Police Department and ATF agents.

Several months into it, the feds dropped out, but the city kept going using the federal dollars, but no arrests were ever made.

Questions then came up about the financial records being kept.

The city did its own internal investigation, and it even led to the police chief being put on paid leave and eventually resigning.

So, while Bielat's report presented on Wednesday didn't immediately find any theft, it did find  a lack of record keeping  that the city plans to make sure is better should an operation of this size happen again.

"I think it's comforting to know that it wasn't done with taxpayer money, first and foremost, that the operation was fully funded by the federal bureau," says Bielat.

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