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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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