ALERT: Potential Scam in Key West

[Key West, Fla.] Last week, several local food and alcohol establishments reported possible scams in which individuals identified themselves as federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). These individuals then attempted to entrap servers or asked establishments for alcohol licenses. The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) and RCS Training conducted extensive research and confirmed with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT), the U.S. ATF, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Key West Police Department that none of their agencies have been or are currently conducting sting operations in Key West. Nor are representatives from these agencies making routine visits in Key West. The Key West Police Department has concluded these people are posing as agents, flashing badges and running a scam.


If any person says he or she is an ATF agent, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Key West Police Department suggest you do take the following actions:

  1. Ask to see the person’s badge.
  2. Ask to see the person’s agency ID/credentials. Agents and officers are required to show you their law enforcement agency ID with their badge. If they do not, note their name or take a picture of the information.
  3. Ask for a business card.
  4. Alcohol-related violations do not usually result in an arrest. Rather, a notice to appear is typically given. Ask to see paperwork to accompany an arrest.
  5. Law enforcement officers should NEVER ask you to pay a fine directly to them. If they do, refuse to pay.
  6. If you have video, save it.
  7. Call Key West Police Department to report the incident.


RCS Training and FRLA advise all clients and members to use caution. If someone under the age of 21 wishes to pay a bill that includes alcohol, separate the alcohol from the food and for each individually. Allow the underage person to pay for the food and ask the 21+ person to pay for the alcohol. This will eliminate the perception that alcohol may have been sold to a minor. This protocol should be standard operating procedure, not just used when there is the suspicion of a scam.