Baltimore ATF gets new chief amid shakeup

A top supervisor with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is being reassigned to lead the Baltimore field office as the beleaguered agency attempts to remake itself amid the fallout from a failed gun-tracking operation along the Southwest border called Fast and Furious.

Mark Chait, who ran all of the ATFE's field investigations around the country, will take over the Baltimore field office, announced Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis who was named the acting head of the federal ATFE this year. Jones replaced the top ATFE chief, Kenneth Melson, who earlier this year was reassigned to a lower-level position in the Department of Justice.


Chait had previously led the New Orleans ATF field office for several years, including during Hurricane Katrina, according to news reports.

Baltimore's current special agent in charge, Theresa Stoop, will become assistant director of the Office of Human Resources and Professional Development, the agency said in a news release. Stoop has led the Baltimore division since November 2008.


Also reassigned was William J. Hoover, the No. 2 man at the ATFE, who will become special agent in charge of the agency's Washington field office. Hoover had broad supervision over Fast and Furious, was given routine updates on the "gun walking" operation, and grew concerned over the number of firearms getting into Mexico without any U.S. indictments on this side of the border.

He tried to get it shut down six months after it began in the fall of 2009. But he failed, and the program continued until January of this year. During that time, a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in Arizona and two Fast and Furious weapons were recovered at the scene.

Under the program, the ATFE allowed the illegal purchase of countless weapons and expected agents to track them to Mexican drug cartels.

Instead, more than 2,000 were lost and many turned up in at least 170 violent crime scenes in Mexico.

Furor over the program has prompted a congressional investigation and a review by the Justice Department's inspector general's office.

Baltimore Sun reporters contributed to this article.