Hundreds of DHS employees arrested for laptop thefts, drug smuggling, other crimes

Jeff Gentner/AP file photo

Some Homeland Security Department employees have found creative ways to supplement their government salary.

A Citizen and Immigration Services worker charged $1,500 to approve citizenship applications. A Customs and Border Patrol agent collected $5,000 to smuggle 30 undocumented aliens across the border. Another officer received $10,000 to let a car filled with 1,700 pounds of marijuana through a port of entry into the United States.

An annual summary from Homeland Security’s inspector general said the department initiated 1,389 investigations into internal matters, leading to 318 arrests and 260 convictions of DHS employees. In 2011, the auditor -- which describes itself as “the principal agency within the department with the authority to investigate employee corruption” -- found instances of bribery, child pornography and “nonconsensual sexual contact” with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees among the crimes DHS staff allegedly committed.

The investigations resulted in fines, restitutions and administrative cost savings of more than $45 million, the report said. Many of the employees face significant prison sentences in addition to termination from their positions.

The CIS officer, Melford Christmas, was sentenced to 18 months of incarceration and 24 months of supervised release. The CBP smuggler, Ricardo Cordero -- who said he participated in the illegal activity because of his “soft spot for humanitarian needs” -- faces 27 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release.

A CBP technician based at Logan International Airport in Boston stole a Customs declaration form from Neil Armstrong and attempted to sell it. The offender, Thomas James Chapman, pleaded guilty and faces two years’ probation.

The IG also investigated a Coast Guard Auxiliary member who used government fleet credit to buy gasoline, which he then sold in a direct exchange for cocaine. He pleaded guilty but does not face any jail time.

Other common crimes included Transportation Security Administration agents stealing cash and laptops from luggage. Homeland Security recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in fraudulent grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including many related to Hurricane Katrina. Roy Hebron, the former mayor of Ball, La., was indicted for falsifying timesheets to receive additional funds for Hurricane Gustav preparation and cleanup.

The alleged criminals at Homeland Security, which employs more than 225,000 workers, decreased from 2010, when 519 employees were arrested and 416 convicted.

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