APRIL 11, 2013
In a case that’s rocked the beleaguered Department of Homeland Security (DHS), two officials assigned to crackdown on corruption at the agency have been indicted for ordering the falsification of records—including active criminal probes—to obstruct an investigation into crooked federal agents.
The case comes out of Texas and it is quite serious. A special agent in charge of DHS’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), Eugenio Pedraza, directed agents to engage in a scheme to falsify documents in open criminal investigative case files, including numerous probes in which DHS employees were suspected of participating in the illegal smuggling of undocumented aliens and/or narcotics into the United States.
The cover up is believed to have affected at least seven investigations into Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents (both are DHS agencies) accused of taking bribes to allow drug shipments and illegal immigrants through ports of entry in the U.S. between 2009 and 2011. Pedraza was trying to conceal severe lapses in the field office, including the deficient investigative standards of the OIG he ran, according to federal authorities.
Additionally, authorities say Pedraza was trying to cover up his failure to provide his subordinates with adequate training and supervision and his failure to ensure the FBI was being appropriately notified of inspector general investigations. This is how the plan worked, according to the feds; at Pedraza’s direction, DHS employees created and placed into investigative files backdated memoranda of activity that falsely reflected investigations that never occurred; worksheets that falsely reflected supervisory case reviews by Pedraza with his agents and backdated, unsent letters were signed by Pedraza that purported to inform the FBI of an inspector general probe.
Pedraza has been charged with six counts of falsification of records in federal investigations, five counts of obstructing an agency proceeding, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of conspiracy. Another agent, Marco Rodriguez was also charged with two counts of falsification of records in federal investigations, two counts of obstructing an agency proceeding and one count of conspiracy.
At least five other federal agents have been implicated but were not criminally charged this time around. Besides Pedraza and Rodriguez, another DHS special agent (Wayne Ball) involved in the scheme previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to falsify records in federal investigations. In federal court appearances this week both Pedraza and Rodriguez pleaded not guilty.
It’s bad enough that corrupt federal agents are putting national security at risk by selling U.S. entry to the highest bidding drug dealer or illegal immigrant smuggling ring. This case exposes an even scarier scenario; that the watchdog charged cracking down on it is instead part of the problem. There are 64 inspector general offices that work to rout out federal government waste, fraud and corruption. As per a 1978 law, they are required to act independently when they investigate their respective federal agencies.
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