WASHINGTON, D.C. – Well over two thousand Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees and co-conspirators have been convicted of corruption and other criminal misconduct since 2004 according to a federal auditor.
The acting inspector general (IG) at DHS, Charles Edwards, made this revelation in his written testimony for an August 1 hearing held before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency, and Financial Management.
Edwards adds that as of July 15, the DHS Office of the Inspector General is currently dealing with 1,591 open criminal cases involving DHS employees and accomplices. Some cases date back to fiscal year 2004 although the majority of the open investigations were initiated in the last three fiscal years.
The thousands of criminal convictions include people who either conspired with a DHS employee or were linked to the crime that was being investigated by the IG. The Office of Inspector General’s investigative work has prompted a total of 2,527 convictions of corruption and other criminal misconduct since around the time when DHS began operating. Criminal convictions of DHS employees and co-conspirators include:
- 1,644 (65%) from Federal Emergency Management Agency-related investigations.
- 358 (14%) from Customs and Border Protection Agency
- 166 (7%) from Immigration and Customs Enforcement-related investigations
- 133 (5%) from investigations linked to the Transportation Security Administration
- 226 (9%) convictions are categorized as “other”
Edwards explained that in the context of the DHS OIG’s investigative work, a DHS employee “means an individual who, at the time of the alleged offense, is appointed, contracted, or officially engaged under authority of law in the performance of a Federal function on behalf of DHS. This includes contractor employees, interns, Coast Guard military personnel (active and reserve), Coast Guard Auxiliaries, and employees detailed to DHS from other Federal agencies.”
The convictions of DHS employees and their co-conspirators have steadily increased since fiscal 2004, peaking at 483 in fiscal 2007. Then, convictions went down to 268 in FY 2009. Following that year, the number of convictions started to rise, reaching 359 last year. During this fiscal year, there have been 146 convictions as of July 15, 2012.
During the hearing, Edwards said his office is overwhelmed by the mounting number of criminal allegations against DHS employees. He told lawmakers that he has asked the Obama administration for 50 additional investigators.
The IG has transferred hundreds of cases to ICE and CBP, allowing them to investigate internally. Subcommittee Chairman Todd Platts (R-Pa.) observed that this opens the door for a “conflict of interest.”
The Center for Investigative Reporting reports that 80 criminal employee misconduct investigations by the DHS IG’s McAllen, Texas division were being reviewed by U.S. Department of Justice and other federal officials after allegations surfaced that IG agents were “fabricating” their progress on investigating the cases. The allegations resulted in a federal grand jury to get involved.
The DHS IG classifies misconduct cases into four categories: 1) corruption involving bribery, disclosure of classified information, espionage and smuggling, among other things. 2) Violations of civil rights and liberties by employees. 3) Defrauding DHS programs and financial systems. 4) Miscellaneous, including those involving child pornography, false statements, and “contact with foreign governments/nationals” among other violations that “may not be criminal in nature.”