Anyone who is familiar with law enforcement knows about Sting Operations – coordinated, deceptive campaigns to catch a person or persons committing a crime. Such operations are commonly used all over the world today, but had their origin in the 1970s under the direction of Bob Arscott, a DC police Detective Lieutenant.
The now famous “Operation Sting” was an undercover operation where he and other officers posed as members of organized crime and ran a fencing operation to buy stolen property from career criminals. They bought $2.4 million in stolen property, ranging from TVs and hockey tables to an ECG machine from P.G. Hospital Center and $1.2 million in federal government checks lifted from a vault at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A postal worker even drove up to sell checks directly out of his USPS vehicle.
The inter-agency team was known as PFF Inc, or Pasquale’s Finest Fencing, but insiders knew the true name: Police-FBI Fencing Ignito.
After two years of undercover work and three Sting Operations, they arrested 565 career criminals, recovered more than $5.5 million dollars in stolen property and closed more than 18,000 criminal cases such as homicide, rape and holdups with a 100% conviction rate. Bob was then assigned to the Justice Department where he set up 30 more Sting Operations around the United States and Canada.
Three novels about the Sting escapades were written. The most famous is the “Washington Sting” by Chuck Conconi and Toni House.
Now 85, Bob recently created a mini-documentary in his own video recording studio to talk about these operations and record them for posterity. As a current board member for the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Memorial and Museum, we wanted to share his story.
Click on the image below to watch Bob’s documentary.
- Boundary Stones, WETA’s local history website, The First Sting.
- Harvard University Press blog article, “Operation Sting” and the Creation of Crime Itself
The DC Police Memorial is working to both honor MPD officers who have died in the the line of duty and also preserve the rich and unique history of the department.