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UPDATE: More Than 150 Charged in Undercover ATF Operation in St. Louis

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KMOX) – 159 people in Illinois and Missouri have been charged and 267 firearms seized as a result of a three-and-a-half-month long surge by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Local states attorneys and police officials from both sides of the river announced the findings of the sting at a press conference Thursday morning.

More than 80 agents worked the surge that was based on ATF programs in other cities targeting the most violent criminal. The defendants in the St. Louis area were no different.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said of the 159 defendants 78% of them had prior convictions. To break that down a little more, the suspects charged in the surge had previously been arrested a combined 2,300 times and convicted more than 500 times.

AFT officials said the operation used hi-tech equipment that read minute scratch marks on shell casings, linking several crimes to one gun. Agents in the field also use social media, searching YouTube and other sites for criminals flashing guns or boasting about gun crimes.

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