NEWS

DHS Employee Working in Georgia a Fugitive

By Matthew Harwood

The embarrassments keep coming for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

According to New Jersey's Star-Ledger, a female employee of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of DHS, was arrested in July in Georgia after having been a fugitive for nearly two years after she was indicted for insurance fraud in New Jersey in December 2007. Tahaya Buchanan, 39, is charged with faking the theft of her Range Rover in 2005 to collect an insurance payout. Her vehicle was found in a relative's garage after the structure caught fire a month after the Range Rover was reportedly stolen.

The fact Buchanan could hide she was a fugitive for two years from DHS has raised eyebrows in New Jersey.

Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Morris said his detectives believe Buchanan was working for Homeland Security while still living in New Jersey in 2007, and that she may have transferred to the Georgia office while under investigation. But Morris said his office is baffled as to why the warrant for her arrest, placed on a national alert system, did not prompt Homeland Security to notice that one of its employees was wanted on a criminal warrant.

"We found it surprising, alarming that an employee of the Department of Homeland Security is a fraudster, and we do not understand how she could have remained employed there with an open criminal warrant for her arrest remaining on the interstate system without being discovered," said Morris.

Buchanan's supervisors at the USCIS office in Atlanta had no idea she was on the lam until yesterday, when the Star-Ledger told them, even though she spent one week in a Georgia jail in July.

This revelation comes a few days after employees at another DHS component, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), posted passenger screening procedures online that could help terrorists sneak contraband on-board U.S. flights. The 93-page TSA manual was marked "Sensitive Security Information." Five TSA employees have been placed on administrative leave because of the unauthorized release, reports the New York Daily News.

Buchanan pleaded guilty to insurance fraud on Monday. She faces three months of probation.

"The USCIS is looking into this matter. USCIS has zero tolerance for any type of employee misconduct or criminal activity," Ana Santiago, a spokeswoman for the USCIS, told the Star-Ledger.


♦ Photo by stuant63/Flickr

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