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Arrests resulting from DHS investigations on the rise

Number of complaints received by the inspector general’s office has decreased significantly, however.

Investigations by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general led to more than 300 arrests during a recent six-month span, continuing a trend of rising arrests, indictments and convictions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

IG actions led to 321 arrests and 243 convictions from April 2006 to September 2006, according to a report released Monday. That represents an increase of 61 percent in arrests over the previous six-month period and a 98 percent jump in convictions.

The number of arrests, indictments and convictions for both periods was greater than ever before in the Homeland Security Department's brief history.

"The department faces unprecedented challenges of continuing to focus on its mission, while coordinating recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in our nation's history," DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner wrote to Secretary Michael Chertoff in a letter presenting the report. "Our office will continue to work with and assist DHS program managers in ensuring that the billions of dollars targeted to support the recovery and reconstruction effort are spent wisely and in the most effective manner possible."

For the most recent period, Skinner's office identified $74 million in funds that could be "put to better use," the report stated. IG fines, recoveries, resolutions and cost savings totaled $21 million.

Skinner's office also reported more than 2,517 open cases -- about 750 more than it had at the end of the previous six-month period.

But the IG may soon see its caseload lighten. In the six-month period immediately following Hurricane Katrina, the office received more than 11,000 complaints. The most recent period turned up less than half of that, with 4,314 complaints filed.

From April 2003 to September 2004, the DHS inspector general's office conducted investigations that resulted in an average of 85 arrests per six-month period. Since Skinner took the helm, the office has averaged 180 arrests every six months.