Has a sting operation or other police action ever "busted" another sting operation?

A while back, one of the police shows in the US had an episode where the NYPD is investigating a possible child pornography ring operating in the city, and raids it, but ends up “busting” an FBI sting operation, and there was some talk about how law enforcement departments need to communicate when operating sting operations in an area where another department also has jurisdiction.

Has anything like this ever happened in real life?

E.g. has a vice cop pretending to be a prostitute (sting operation against johns) ever busted another disguised vice cop that was pretending to be a john in order to bust prostitutes?


A major reason why James “Whitey” Bulger (the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed) was able to evade capture for so long is that he was secretly reporting his comrades to a corrupt FBI agent.

This (supposedly) happened in Columbus a few years ago, but I think there was some controversy over whether the cops on the john side were completely above board.

Here in NC the Green Berets do training exercises outside of their base once a year and a few years ago a local cop stopped one of the GB guys during a training mission and shot and killed him. Since then they make a big deal about telling everyone when this training is held. It’s called Robin Sage.

Reno 911 did a skit about this where the drug buyer and drug seller were both undercover cops but because of entrapment neither one wanted to make the first move and be accused of entrapment they both pussyfoot around on the issue.

In real life, in the book ‘under and alone’ ATF agent William Queen goes undercover as a biker in the Mongol motorcycle club. He had a car that was full of bugging equipment and surveillance devices that he would drive around with other mongols in and record their conversations to eventually use in court. One night he was driving a Mongol who was drunk and stoned when the police pulled him over and, not knowing he was an undercover federal agent (these were local cops) started ripping his car apart looking for drugs or weapons. Then when they started finding all the bugging equipment they got confused and confronted Queen who was worried the other Mongol would figure out what was happening and that Queen was an undercover cop.

Donnie Brasco had things like that happen to him too, he’d be picked up by local cops not knowing he was undercover. I’m guessing it happens. But its not quite the same thing as a victimless crime where the dealer and seller are both undercover.

Eventually the cops put 2 and 2 together and figured it was a sting operation and let him go, and the drunk/stoned Mongol was so stoned he didn’t even remember being pulled over.

Just 3 years ago, local & visiting anarchists, socialists, libertarians, etc. organized together to protest the 2008 Republican Convention in St. Paul. Everybody expected that they would either fall apart into bickering factions or become consumed with endlessly debating minuscule wording details. Surprisingly, they did neither, but were a fairly organized group. (Still rather ineffective, in the face of preemptive raids & arrests and overwhelming police reaction at the Convention.)

They were largely held together by an effective, organized secretary who kept things moving and on track.

This year, during the lawsuits about the arrests, her effectiveness was explained: she was an FBI agent planted in these groups. So the groups that normally would have fallen apart were held together by their effective FBI informant! So it still happens.

It’s commonly claimed that police should communicate more effectively with other law enforcement agencies or even internally amongst themselves to prevent this sort of thing (uniformed police who are not in the loop arresting covert police), but the reality of corruption usually means that the occasional embarrassment is a necessary price to pay for the security of the operation.

In my jurisdiction there was a scandal years ago when what elsewhere would be called the Vice Squad insisted that any officer doing a raid had to let the squad’s boss know in advance and get their search warrants approved by him for the raid to take place. This was on the pretext of avoiding compromising some undercover or other operation going on.

What was really happening was that the boss would always give approval, but just tip off the people about to be raided (if they were paying him graft) so that by the time the police got from the boss’s office to the raid site, no-one was there.

Honest members of the squad soon started to wonder why so many of their raids were a bust for no sensible reason and soon figured out what was going on.

So they would comply with the letter of the instruction but violate its spirit. They’d take out two separate warrants instead of the expected one, and be hanging around outside the raid venue armed with a warrant simultaneously with another officer’s gaining approval for the second but identical warrant with the boss.

When they raided the (for example) bookie’s premises, they would thereby get inside the boss’s capacity to warn and frequently answer the phone call the boss made to warn the bookies to get out. They hoped that embarrassing the boss in this way would cause him to pull his head in, but it turned out that corruption was too endemic for that to be a solution.

Fortunately, the corruption was eventually dismantled by a major public investigation, but that’s another story.

To make things worse, the Army routinely used local cops to “role-play”. They thought the cop was part of the exercise.