High-ranking Park Service official pleads guilty to travel fraud

A top law enforcement official at the National Park Service pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor charge of stealing public money. Patricia Buccello, 55, was the agency's senior internal investigator and had nearly 30 years of service. She entered a statement of offense in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Oct. 31, resigned from her position and agreed not to seek a job in law enforcement in the future.

Buccello, as a senior official in a supervisory role, hadn't been directly involved in investigations for several years, said Kathy Kupper, a Park Service spokeswoman. "There's no evidence at this time that any investigations were compromised," she said.

As the agency's national special agent in charge, Buccello was responsible for managing all the finance accounts for Park Service special agents. She admitted to misusing a government credit card and to fraudulently billing Carlson Wagonlit, a travel agency, for airline tickets for nine personal trips between her duty station in Washington and Maine, where she also maintained a home.

She also misspent money on nonrefundable tickets that were never used or exchanged, and voluntarily missed flights related to official duties -- once in order to obtain free round-trip airline tickets. She then lied about the missed flights to colleagues.

The investigation into Buccello's actions began last April, when the inspector general at the Interior Department -- the Park Service's parent agency -- received a complaint that Buccello failed to perform assigned duties in order to obtain a free round-trip airline ticket.

According to a statement Buccello submitted to the court, in March she flew to Charlotte, N.C., where she was scheduled to take a connecting flight to Jacksonville, Fla., to attend a ceremony honoring fallen Park Service officers. She voluntarily gave up her seat on the connecting flight in exchange for a free ticket, but told colleagues her flight had been canceled.

In July 2006, she was scheduled to travel to St. Louis, Mo., to deliver a fatality report to the widow of a fallen Park Service officer. Her itinerary was to take her from Rockland, Maine, to Boston to Charlotte and finally to St. Louis. But Buccello missed her scheduled flight to Boston and took a later flight, which arrived too late for the connecting flight to Charlotte. She flew to Washington instead, and called the widow to say that she was "stuck on the tarmac and would not make it to St. Louis."

In a joint statement, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor and Interior Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said Buccello had blanket travel authorization by virtue of her position, and that her abuse of that position between April 2005 and March 2007 resulted in a loss to taxpayers of $10,864.95.

Buccello will be sentenced in early January. She faces up to six months in prison.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.