NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Undercover investigators went onto the Internet and bought more than 900 black-market law enforcement badges, including FBI and Secret Service shields, federal authorities said Thursday.
FBI spokesman Jon Stephens said a Florida man with no known ties to terrorists is a suspect in the case but has not yet been arrested.
"The individual trafficking these badges was selling them for profit, including selling them to foreign nationals," FBI agent Doug Riggin said. "He had no idea what they were going to be usedce, the Drug Enforcement Agency, military police, security police from Air Force One and police departments in at least 20 states.
One of the shields was an official Utah Highway Patrol badge for the 2002 Winter Olympics, which begin next week in Salt Lake City.
"These badges haven't even been put on the street yet" to Utah troopers, Riggin said. "I don't know if you could get into a venue with just the badge, but you could certainly get closer. It would certainly give you more credibility."
Authorities believe the real badges were either lost or stolen before they wound up for sale on the Internet. The FBI is investigating whether the counterfeit ones came from badge manufacturers or distributors.
Stephens said the suspect sold the badges on a Web site that has since been taken down. After several purchases by undercover agents, the FBI searched the suspect's home, where more badges were found.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol was tipped to the black market trade last summer by someone who said it was easy to buy badges on the Internet.