Charles Edwards, the acting inspector general (IG) at DHS, made that revelation in written testimony prepared for an Aug. 1 hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency, and Financial Management.
In his remarks, Edwards added that as of July 15, the DHS OIG (Office of the Inspector General) was dealing with 1,591 open criminal cases involving DHS employees and some accomplices. Some cases date back to fiscal year 2004 (Oct. 1, 2003 thru Sept. 30, 2004) although the majority of the open investigations were initiated in the last three fiscal years. The DHS started operating in March 2003.
Once the OIG completes most of its investigative work into employee misconduct allegations, the matter is presented to a U.S. attorney’s office for prosecution. The Department of Justice (DOJ) oversees the various U.S. attorneys’ offices located across the country. A case is considered “open” by the inspector general until all judicial activity is completed.
The thousands of criminal convictions have resulted from the arrest of individuals, both employees and non-employees, associated with components of DHS. These include individuals who either conspired with a DHS employee or were linked to the crime that was being investigated by the IG. The DHS IG’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.
Among the 2,527 criminal convictions as of July 15, 1,644 (about 65 percent) stem from Federal Emergency Management Agency-related investigations; 358 (about 14 percent) from those linked to the Customs and Border Protection agency; 166 (7 percent) from Immigration and Customs Enforcement-related investigations; and 133 (5 percent) from investigations linked to the Transportation Security Administration. The remaining 226 (about 9 percent) convictions are categorized as “other.”
Besides corruption-related cases, the inspector general is charged with investigating criminal allegations against department contractors, grantees, and others who receive financial assistance from DHS, such as disaster assistance beneficiaries.
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 had been 146 convictions as of July 15, 2012.
Currently, the DHS has over 225,000 employees while the department’s IG has 219 investigators. During the hearing, Edwards admitted that his office is overwhelmed by the growing 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 their own misconduct, something that opens the door for a “conflict of interest,” said Subcommittee Chairman Todd Platts (R-Pa.).
On April 19, the Center for Investigative Reporting wrote 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 prompted 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.”