"As the Department becomes more efficient and successful in deploying techniques, technologies and manpower to disrupt traditional smuggling routes and networks, the smuggling organizations have redoubled their efforts to evade our efforts by using alternative tactics, including bribing DHS employees and engaging in fraudulent schemes to acquire immigration benefits," he said. The tactics used by drug trafficking to corrupt border officers and agents, Frost said, are similar to those wielded by foreign intelligence agencies.
But crimes committed by DHS employees were not just limited to the border and the government's fight to keep illegal narcotics out. Some of the more disconcerting convictions concerned the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. One ICE Special Agent found himself busted by Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" for attempting a lewd act with a child under 14. He received a year in prison. Another ICE Deportation Officer was caught with sexually explicit pictures of a child after a hotel surveillance camera caught the man entering his room with a child while on business outside the United States. He's currently serving 15 years in prison.
Not all the investigations focused on DHS employees. Sometimes private citizens and local authorities were also investigated and convicted, mainly for helping employees commit crimes or abusing DHS programs. A major target for fraudsters was FEMA's relief programs to Hurricane Katrina victims. In one instance, a joint OIG-FBI investigation nabbed a local police chief making false claims of residence damage from Hurricane Katrina, which earned him $19,514 in benefits. The easy money, however, also landed him in jail for 2-and-a-half years as well as 3 years on probation with orders to make full restitution.
Through the investigations, the OIG reports its actions saved taxpayers approximately $86 million from fines, restitution, administrative cost savings, and recoveries. According to the numbers, fiscal year 2009 saw a reduction in cases accepted for prosecution, arrests, and convictions over 2008. Complaints received, however, were up significantly with approximately 16,800 in 2009 compared to approximately 11,400 in 2008.
Asked about the disparity between the complaint rates and arrest and conviction rates, Metelko said arrests and convictions could be down while complaints are up because drug smuggling operations continue to grow in sophistication and learn new ways to cover up their corruption campaigns.
♦ Photo by Ken Mayer/Flickr