Another Open Letter to President Barack Obama regarding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Another Open Letter to President Barack Obama regarding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its subordinate agencies: Strip some power from local managers, with headquarters taking greater control of promotions, discipline, hiring and policy decisions
August 10, 2009
The Honorable Mr. President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President Obama:
I received the letter that Mr. Kelleher wrote me on July 24, 2009 on your behalf. I am responding to you through Mr. Kelleher with supporting documentation. The hard copies are being sent via USPS.
Thank you for the selections and subsequent U.S. Senate confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. I thank every U.S. Senator who voted for her confirmation. Our Hispanic communities across the United States and the world will always remember the historical day of August 8, 2009, when our first Hispanic was appointed Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, just when we elected you our first Black U.S. President of the United States on January 20, 2009.
The reason I feel compelled to write you again is about the never-ending problems at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its subordinate agencies. As an introduction, I am posting an article DHS official defends effort to promote radio interoperability that was published by the Government Executive Magazine at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0207/021507cdpm3.htm - this event took place in 2007 prior to your administration, a few key personnel changes have taken place. When one reads this article, we learn that a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management found that DHS employees had the lowest rate of job satisfaction of any federal agency.
I hope my posting shed more light to the real problem existing at DHS and your executive team of Homeland Security senior advisors, along with Secretary Janet Napolitano’s input and the role that the DHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports and audits will play in your administration.
Mr. President, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is broken and you need to fix it. The American taxpayers have already experienced eight (8) years of frustrations and disappointments with the prior ICE administration which in essence remains the same; with just some changes of immigration policy and the appointment of Mr. John T. Morton. As a retired employee (criminal investigator-special agent) of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who came from the Legacy U.S. Customs Service, I was forced out into retirement at age 51. I am surprised I lasted this long since the filing of a class action complaint of discrimination against the Legacy U.S. Customs Service in 1995. I am also a former criminal investigator with the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization.
You need to appoint a special U.S. prosecutor, counsel, commission with subpoena powers and/or ask the U.S. Congress to conduct congressional hearings, similar to the ones conducted in 1992 on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). However, this time, any DHS employee regarding of rank, title or position must be held accountable. Further, the DHS’OIG needs stronger oversight and enforcement authority.
Please allow me to give you an example: the DHS-OIG receives a Hot-Line lead. The allegation is gross misconduct and mismanagement of an ICE’s special agent in charge and senior executive series for using his office building to engage in sexual activities, condones racial discrimination plus other infractions. A “Black Book” report of investigation is sent to Mr. Morton’s office to take appropriate disciplinary action against the employee. In this particular case is removal. Mr. Morton’s closest advisor tells him to take no action. DHS-OIG has no authority to make or force Mr. Morton to impose any discipline on the offender. Case closed. From the 1992 U.S. Congressional hearings and from the numerous investigative reports published by David Kidwell of the Miami Herald, several Legacy U.S. Customs employees mentioned as being involved in gross misconduct are still working at ICE and CBP.
Before I started writing this letter, I reviewed several reports issued by both the DHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG); and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). I came to the conclusion that time after time, report after report, promises are being made about unfinished projects by ICE, CBP etc.,…..and basically they stay unfinished, all while the DHS’ agencies keep spending American taxpayers dollars on “new toys” i.e. leased or purchased government-owned vehicles every year, etc.
You already appointed Ms. Janet Napolitano to be the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In turn, she has already selected some of her assistants, such as Mr. John T. Morton, to be in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), others agencies such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), who are still being run by their career civil executive service managers.
Please, don’t take what I will be writing in a negative way. You appointed Ms. Napolitano as Secretary of DHS is great! For a few days, I believed you were going to select Raymond W. Kelly for the job. Kelly’s dark side is basically a liar, and a man you cannot trust. Kelly committed perjury when he testified before the U.S. Senate for his confirmation as Undersecretary for Enforcement, U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Kelly had a big conflict of interest as president of IGI who got hired by Terry Lenzner, the Executive Chairman or whatever title he possesses. The fact and truth of the matter is that there is ample evidence linking Kelly with IGI before he went before the U.S. Senate, not only once, but twice, the second time for his confirmation as commissioner of Customs. Why is it that Kelly’s biography as commissioner of the New York City police department’s website his work at the IGI is missing?
I reviewed the latest websites of DHS, ICE, CBP, and USCIS. I had problems locating their respective office of professional integrity (ICE), offices of internal affairs (CBP), and Office of Security and Integrity (USCIS) because according to their respective organizational charts, these offices are unfortunately far away from the agency’s head. When in college, I took a course on organizational behavior. If your office is closer to the boss you are in good shape. However, if your office is located far away…well it is how far you are from your boss.
Thus I came into a conclusion that integrity and public corruption is not on top of your administration’s priorities, even though you promised us more transparency as you were running for your current office.
I made one observation at the ICE’s website: their NO FEAR ACT statistics are not up to dated. All federal agencies by law must post their No Fear Act statistics every quarter.
On September 26, 2005 DHS’ Secretary Michael Chertoff issued a memorandum to all DHS employees regarding The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation (No Fear) Act of 2002 and the Whistleblower Protection Act. Secretary Chertoff wrote:
As Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), I am committed to ensuring that you are notified of your rights as Federal employees and understand prohibited personnel practices and whistleblower protections. The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation (No Fear) Act of 2002 and the Whistleblower Protection Act were enacted to support the President's Management Agenda and to ensure a work environment free of unlawful discrimination and retaliation.
The Whistleblower Protection Act was enacted to strengthen protections for Federal employees who believe they have been subjected to unjustified personnel actions in reprisal for their whistleblowing activities. Whistleblowing is defined as the disclosure of information by an employee or applicant that the employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences a violation of any law, rule or regulation or gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act (No Fear Act) of 2002 requires that Federal agencies be accountable for violations of antidiscrimination and whistleblower protection laws and contends that agencies cannot be run effectively if they practice or tolerate discrimination.
Discrimination and reprisal have no place at DHS. It is a prohibited personnel practice to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. In keeping with the No Fear Act, managers and supervisors found responsible for violating civil rights or whistleblower protection laws will be disciplined accordingly.
I firmly believe that employees who are aware of these protections will be more confident in coming forward to report possible violations. Although you are encouraged to bring any violations to the attention of your management officials, other sources are available to receive such disclosures. You can report these matters confidentially to the DHS Office of the Inspector General (1-800-323-8603), the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (202-254-3600), your local Equal Employment Opportunity office, or other sources depending on the circumstances. The following link to the OSC's website (www.osc.gov)is the fact sheet, "Your Rights as a Federal Employee," which provides detailed information on prohibited personnel practices: http:llwww.osc.govldocumentslpubs/rights.htm.
I encourage you to familiarize yourself with these protections. Please be assured that my leadership team and I will not tolerate whistleblower reprisal and that we are committed to promoting an environment in which employees feel free to come forward with their legitimate concerns without fear of reprisal. If you have any questions, please contact your servicing human resources office or the DHS Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (202-357-8200).
The No Fear Act - Unfortunately the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the worst offender with the 4th quarter of 2005 being posted with some questionable numbers, while the best agency with current 2009 statistics is FEMA. I wrote to the ICE’s EEO officer and she failed to respond. A few days later on a Saturday I wrote her a second Email advising her if she doesn’t answer me that I was going to write to Mr. John Morton, the Assistant Secretary for ICE. She immediately responded and basically and in brief, I determined that it was not her fault. She is not getting the statistics from the ICE respective offices. Thus, the buck stops with Mr. Morton to make sure all offices comply with the No Fear Act, assuming he wants to comply with the law. An employee who decides to go bad and engages in criminal misconduct, his or her excuse and rationale is that if my bosses are disregarding the law, I can do it too as well.
Public Corruption should be one of your top priorities. Arrests of DHS employees is escalating and on the rise. It is why I respectfully request that you Mr. President ask or order Inspector General (IG) Richard L. Skinner to re-open the allegations of gross misconduct and gross mismanagement, both criminal and administrative I filed with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s OIG and the Legacy U.S. Customs Service’s Office of Internal Affairs. Because I was a Customs special agent who worked for the Office of Investigations and Office of Internal Affairs, jurisdiction will rest with DHS’ Office of the Inspector General. Please remind all of your Inspectors Generals that lying to the U.S. Congress is unlawful and that you will not tolerate such illegal criminal acts. Unfortunately after this story I will be publishing another one asking for the termination of IG Skinner for lying to the U.S. Congress and condoning his subordinates that lying and making false statements to the Legislative Branch is OK.
Mr. President, please don’t allow IG Skinner’s office to simply disregard my allegations or merely refer them to ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The documents I am sending you by USPS will outline every allegation that needs to be re-opened and that certain current employees be thoroughly investigated. In the case of the misuse of a Customs aircraft, the Treasury’s OIG simply referred the case back to Customs management and the Executive Director for the Air and Marine Interdiction Division (Legacy U.S. Customs Service), simply confirmed the deployment of an aircraft by stating: “The initial mission request was received from a special agent at RAIC Yuma on May 14, 2001”….”On May 16, 2001, two special agents were flown from Yuma, Arizona to Safford, Arizona, and upon completion of their investigative duties, the agents were flown back to Yuma, Arizona. Based on the mission description received from the RAIC special agent, the mission in question meets the guidelines that the Air and Marine Interdiction Division requires for determining appropriate use of USCS aircraft, e.g., OMB A-126 and PL 106-58. For clarification purpose, May 14 was a Monday and May 16 was a Wednesday. The mission: interview and debrief a federal prisoner that was not going anywhere.
Regarding the above misuse of a Legacy U.S. Customs-ICE aircraft, I wrote and faxed the following letter to OMB Director Peter Orszag:
Letter to OMB Director
August 9, 2009
The Honorable Mr. Peter Orszag, Director
The Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Director Orszag:
I will be submitting similar documents to Inspector General Richard L. Skinner of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the White House. This time, I am asking all help I can get to make sure our American taxpayers dollars are spent on “legitimate” and bona fide federal law enforcement purposes.
I will be sending all documentation, including this one, to Francis Michael Kelleher, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Correspondence.
Like this complaint, I filed numerous others that were either ignored and/or taken care of “with just a phone call” – no formal investigation was ever conducted.
Yet, the Legacy U.S. Customs Service, later known as ICE made sure that any and all allegations filed against me, were fully investigated, wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars, resources, manpower etc. At the end, not one single case was ever made against me and I honorably retired on October 3, 2006.
I ask that any retired or current Customs employee found to have misused a Customs aircraft, that the U.S. government sends him/her a bill for all unnecessary expenses.
In reference to this case, the two Customs special agents had the option of driving one government-owned vehicle (GOV) from Yuma to Safford, Arizona. RAIC Steve D. Arizaga made this writer and another agent use one GOV for the same purpose and reason used by the two Customs agents who were transported to Safford via a Customs aircraft days before. The cited OMB A-126 and PL 106-58 authorities were violated.
Miguel Angel Contreras, PhD
Exhibit No. 1
Ex-Immigration Official Sentenced to 71/2 Years
Man Accepted Bribes From Venezuelan Firm - By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer - Saturday, February 14, 2009; B02
A former immigration supervisor was sentenced to more than seven years in prison yesterday for accepting kickbacks from a Venezuelan company that provided armor-plated vehicles for U.S. officials in South America.
Gerardo Chavez, 46, pocketed $172,000 from the scheme and planned to receive $87,000 more before federal agents uncovered it, prosecutors said. Chavez, 46, is a former deputy assistant director of international operations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Chavez steered about $2.8 million in contracts for the four-wheel-drive vehicles to Caracas-based Blindajes Del Caribe, known as Blincar, according to court records. The company's owner then funneled money back to Chavez, who used it to purchase land in California and a 2006 Hummer and to finance $43,000 in renovations to his Clifton home, the documents said. About 45 of the armored vehicles were later found to be defective and were replaced at a cost of more than $5 million.
Chavez was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to 90 months in prison after pleading guilty in November to accepting bribes in exchange for official acts and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. His lawyer, Marvin Miller, said the veteran immigration agent is "a really dedicated guy who made a really dumb choice and put himself in a bad situation by his own conduct." He said Chavez spent four days being interviewed by federal agents when they searched his home. "He feels terrible about it."
Cori Bassett, an ICE spokeswoman, said the agency "respects the court's decision" and cooperated in the investigation. "As public servants, every employee at ICE is held to the highest standard of professional integrity," said Bassett, who added that ICE had made several changes to "strengthen oversight" as a result of the case. She would not specify them.
Chavez, who had worked for ICE and its predecessor agency, the U.S. Customs Service, for more than 20 years, was administratively suspended in August 2007 when ICE learned of the investigation. His lawyer said Chavez subsequently resigned.
Court documents said the investigation began in October 2006 when FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials reviewed a memo from a former ICE official. It alleged that Chavez had inappropriate relationships with several Venezuelan businessmen, accepting flights on their private jets and vacationing with them. Chavez worked in Caracas as an immigration supervisor from 2000 to 2005.
In 2006, court documents said, Chavez e-mailed Blincar's president to say he was arranging a visit to the Blincar factory by an ICE official to persuade her to buy armor-plated vehicles. "If we convince the lady, then you can count on a contract for ten more cars," he wrote, according to the documents.
Other newspapers report that the sentencing judge asked Chavez why he did it (become corrupted). Chavez’s answer was something to the effect that he was working in such environment. I know what Chavez meant. I was never permanently assigned to a foreign post (Customs or ICE were never going to give me a high coveted position) but I did spent several weeks in Montevideo, Uruguay assisting the Customs Attaché in 1991. I personally knew Chavez. He was a very funny guy and a party organizer. The last time I had contact with him was when he asked me to help him get a foreign job. I did and he went to Mexico City. Later on I called him and asked him for the same favor….well he never returned my call.
Exhibit No. 2
Homeland Security official dead in Tucson
Head of Phoenix Immigration and Customs Enforcement office dies en route to DM event - Natalie Tejeda - Fox 11 News - March 16, 2004
TUCSON -- FOX 11 News has learned that one of the highest ranking Homeland Security officials in Arizona is dead.
Thomas DeRouchey, interim director of the ICE office in Phoenix, was found dead.
But mystery surrounds his death and both local and federal agencies are saying little.
Thomas DeRouchey, interim special agent in charge of the Phoenix Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was on the way to an announcement of a new federal border initiative by Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson at Davis Monthan Air Force Base.
DeRouchey was found dead in his car on Interstate 10 about a mile north of Tangerine Road. That is inside the Marana city limits.
"The firefighters did find him in a car in the median and he was deceased," said Katie Heiden, a spokesperson for Northwest Fire in Tucson.
Heiden confirmed that DeRouchey was alone in the car and a weapon was found in the car.
Michael J. Garcia, assistant secretary of ICE, issued a statement confirming the death and offering condolences to DeRouchey's family and friends.
Dr. Bruce Parks, Pima County Medical Examiner, refused to release any details of the death, but confirmed that he is investigating. Parks referred all comments to the Marana Police Department.
The Marana Police Department refused any comment, saying any information would have to come from ICE.
The announcement of a new border initiative by the Bush administration along the Arizona-Mexico border went on as scheduled Tuesday morning with no mention of DeRouchey's death.
ICE spokesperson Russell Ahr told the Associated Press that DeRouchey's death occurred in a "one vehicle accident", but local paramedics say they responded to a call of "gun shots" and not an accident. Ahr claimed there was damage to DeRouchey's vehicle.
DeRouchey had been a federal agent since 1988. He was named interim head of the Phoenix office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office last summer. ICE is a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
No mention of DeRouchey's death was made at the Homeland Security event at Davis Monthan Air Force Base on Tuesday where the assistant secretary announced a new initiative to deal with border issues over the next several months.
This is the opposite to what took place in the early 1980s. As we were having our regular class at the ATF Academy at FLETC, Glynco, GA, the instructor interrupted the class to give us the bad news that an ATF agent while working undercover had been killed by the bad guys.
Exhibit No. 4
On April 26, 2001, the Associated Press published an article titled: Agent Death Raises New Questions About Customs. This is regarding a fatal accident where one Customs agent Gary Paul Friedli who lost his life and the driver, another agent was found to be responsible for the death of his partner.
Subsequent investigations conducted on the request of a US senator, it was revealed that the Tucson Office of Investigation’s management officials (the same one who have been persecuting this writer, and the same ones who subjected him to the fitness for duty psychiatric examination) conspired to obstruct the investigation. Internal Affairs conducted a mediocre investigation the first time.
Both Customs offices of investigations and internal affairs attempted to cover up some facts by providing and reporting false statements. The Treasury’s OIG conducted an investigation and found that the Agency’s management officials had engaged in gross misconduct. Agent Allan Sperling the driver who caused the death of agent Friedli hurriedly received a letter of reprimand.
Customs commissioner Raymond W. Kelly lied to Doreen Kulpa-Friedli, the wife of the dead Customs agent by stating that since Sperling had been issued “a letter of reprimand” that according to MSPB rulings he could not be disciplined again for the same offense. I don’t understand why the Tucson, AZ Customs management protected agent Sperling. Assistant Commissioner William Keefer, the Employment and Labor Relations Unit and the Office of Chief Counsel should have gotten together and charge Sperling criminally in a court of law. Why I am so sure Kelly had the power and authority to do such a thing: remember, Kelly and Keefer created a Cold Case Unit within the Customs’ internal affairs at headquarters for the purpose of identifying any employee who deserved a more severe punishment instead of having received a slap on the wrist.
Exhibit No. 5
On or about February 27, 2001 a local Spanish news reporter of BAJO EL SOL interviewed me regarding my personal educational and working experiences. This was a personal and not an official interview. The only reference to the Customs Service was made when I was asked who my employer was. On March 2, 2001, the article was published in Yuma, AZ.
On March 5, 2001, Michael J. Strom wrote a memorandum for Steven D. Arizaga’s signature to be fax to the SAC, Tucson, AZ. The acting SAC was Miguel Unzueta, a well known sexual pervert who for some unknown reason (s), has not been disciplined by the Legacy Customs and later ICE promoted.
On March 5 and 6, 2001, RAC Steven Arizaga initiated an internal inquiry/investigation into what he considered an act of misconduct regarding the newspaper article. According to Mike Strom, he learned from rookie special agent Stephanie Lord who wanted to use me as an undercover operative for one of her cases. What assurances this young inexperienced Customs special agent had to assume that if ordered by my supervisors I had no option but to obey and work undercover? After having spent years of doing deep and casual undercover work, it was up to me to agree to become an undercover operative, per U.S. Customs Service’s undercover policy.
ARIZAGA and STROM were stupid and ignorant because, instead of using my special skills and knowledge on higher profile cases, they had me assisting the local drug task force doing gram of heroin or cocaine buys from low level drug addicts. This is how low I had become when working for ARIZAGA and STROM. No wonder ARIZAGA’s nickname was GOOFY.
No Customs employee can be forced to do any undercover work against his will. The following is what subsequently took place:
On March 20, 2001, GS Mike Strom requested that I prepare a memorandum for Acting Special Agent in Charge Miguel Unzueta explaining why I did not obtain authorization from my supervisors and the Customs Press Officer before talking with the news reporter. Refer to the attached documents regarding my response. I anticipated that once again I were told be the recipient of a disciplinary and/or adverse action. I called our class action attorney and I was told that if Customs attempts to bring disciplinary or adverse actions, that there were some U.S. Constitutional provisions and issues, in addition to the retaliation and harassment for my EEO activity.
This writer had filed complaints of EEO discrimination, retaliation harassment and hostile working environment against Steve D. ARIZAGA and Michael J. STROM. Subsequently an EEO investigator conducted an EEO investigation in my office from February 19 through February 27, 2001. She conducted an investigation of allegations of harassment and hostile working environment filed against RAC ARIZAGA and GS STROM
Acting SAC UNZUETA, who at the time was a GS-1811-15 and still a closet homosexual saw the opportunity to create something big with my “unauthorized media interview” and from having spoken to the media and have my picture taken. The following is the list of names (Customs' high ranking officials) that got involved with this particular media interview:
John C. Varrone, Ronald R. Frazee, David S. Nehls, Kenneth W. Cates, Roger Maier Steven D. Arizaga, Michael J. Strom, Murphy H. Dennis, Pete E. Gonzlez, Mark Robinson, Donald K. Shruhan, Vincent Iglio, Richard F. Mercier, Riccardo J. Olivieri, Artuto R. Renteria. Customs relied on an old policy: Customs Policy No. 099 5410-001, dated October 10, 1986.
Miguel UNZUETA even sent a cc or Email to the Customs Attaché, Mexico City, in case “someone” at the Embassy saw the article and had questions about it? I must include that all of the Customs officials involved misspelled the name of the newspaper. They kept calling it BAJA DELSOL when the correct spelling and title of the newspaper was BAJO EL SOL. My guess is that VARRONE, SHRUHAN, UNZUETA, ARIZAGA and STROM for sure they were going for my head. Wonder what Pfizer, Inc. would think about Donald K. Shuhan, Pfizer's global security senior regional director's Customs' racial discriminative and retaliatory practices?
UNZUETA: “it appears that Miguel was the driving force behind the article being written.” Meaning, this writer had acted alone and without authorization when I was interviewed and photographed.
Last Friday, (March 2), a feature story on SSA Miguel Contreras appeared in the Baja del Sol Newspaper. The Baja del Sol has a circulation of approx. 20,000 on both sides of the border in Yuma/San Luis. This release was NOT authorized by any Customs manager and, at this point, it appears that Miguel was the driving force behind the article being written. We are taking the appropriate steps in notifying IA, XD West, etc. This information is being provided to you as an FYI and in case the Embassy sees the article or ask questions.
This newspaper is given to the public free of charge. As far as this low class free local newspaper, reaching Mexico City, is like assuming that the world is flat.
Now, Mr. President, for your information, in the 1990s, Miguel UNZUETA who was assigned to Customs’ headquarters, as a GS-1811-15, supervisory criminal investigator was caught inside a parked car engaging in sexual activities with a male DEA supervisor. A local D.C. police officer is the law enforcement officer who witnessed the criminal act (oral sex). Allegedly, the DEA supervisor was fired. I don’t know if UNZUETA was disciplined or not but I assume he was not because after this incident, UNZUETA was promoted to be the Special Agent in Charge, a Senior Executive Service position in San Diego, California. Allegedly UNZUETA used his badge and credentials to avoid getting arrested. The way the word got out is when UNZUETA was attending a local police function and the police officer saw him and recognized him as being the same Customs supervisor and sex pervert he had an encounter, when he let him go.
In the 2000’s a current ICE manager who works for UNZUETA related to me that a visiting female ICE group supervisor witnessed UNZUETA engaged in sexual activities with a subordinate male manager in the office building in San Diego, CA. I did not get all of the details but I asked the ICE manager if he knew whether UNZUETA was disciplined and the answer was no.
Mr. President, I personally can care less about UNZUETA’s sex orientation. However, I bring to your attention two significant issues: NATIONAL SECURITY VULNERABILITY. Although I doubt very much UNZUETA has any high security clearance beyond the standard ones issued to all ICE special agents. However, I will be concerned if UNZUETA is still in the “closet” which I doubt but if he is getting security clearances higher than secret and then the probabilities that he may be “blackmailed” – Regardless, besides the national security issues comes the immoral criminal acts. Please keep in mind that UNZUETA is not your average ICE’s Joe the agent, grade GS-13. He is the Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for San Diego and Imperial Counties, California. UNZUETA has already violated a number of federal employee’s code of conduct and ethics. He is in charge of ICE in his district. ICE SAC Miguel UNZUETA only brings shame, sadness and dishonor to all ICE special agents working under his district. UNZUETA was the “driving force” on his two sexual perversion acts. Mr. John Morton cannot condone UNZUETA sexual perversion illegal acts. Mr. Morton must do something to get this sex pervert removed from the federal government.
For the information of the DHS Secretary and ICE’s Assistant Secretary, when you remove a Hispanic from a high level position, such as UNZUETA and FRANK FIGUEROA (below case) you are doing your duties and be assured that our Hispanic communities will thank you for removing a cancerous tumor that can easily spread.
Last week I had the rare opportunity to talking to a former Legacy U.S. Customs Service’s special agent who was arrested and sentenced to few years in federal prison in the 1990s. He is out and is working for a county government. I asked him why he decided to violate his oath of office. He explained that his son was critically ill, needed money, and besides, the U.S. Customs Service he knew was corrupted.
I can only assume that Customs OI management, the Employment Labor Department and the Customs attorneys had a very difficult time determining what punishment to give me for having been interviewed for the news article. This at the end, I got served with a “Letter of Caution” by the acting SAC, Vincent Iglio.
In March 2002, I wrote the following letter to Vincent Iglio regarding a Letter of Caution I received regarding the Bajo el Sol news story. Here is the letter:
MIGUEL ANGEL CONTRERAS
City, State and Zip Code
March 13, 2002
Mr. Vincent Iglio
Acting Special Agent in Charge
Labor and Employee Relations, Room 2.3D
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue. NW
Washington, D.C. 20229
Re: Miguel Angel Contreras,
Senior Criminal Investigator, GS-1811-13
Request for information; and Reply to Letters of Caution and
Fitness for Duty
Dear Mr. Iglio:
This letter concerns my reply to your March 7, 2002's "Letter of Caution" regarding the taking of my interview and photograph at the RAIC office in Yuma, AZ by Gerardo Torres of the Baja Del Sol Newspaper, and the March 6, 2002 "letter of fitness for duty." For your information, the issues contained in this matter concerns Constitutional issues as well as EEOC matters. As such, I have contacted the Arizona EEO District manager to initiate a complaint of retaliation and reprisal. Further, I am routing this letter through the Customs' Labor Employment Relations (LER) your office undoubtedly utilized LER to prepare the two adverse actions.
Pursuant to 5 USC 7513 (b) and 5 CFR 752.404, I am responding in writing to the allegations set forth in the "letter of caution" and will also be raising affirmative defenses, including, but not limited to the following: harassment; national origin discrimination and reprisal for engaging in EEO activities; reprisal for engaging in activity protected under 5 USC 2302 (b) (8) (engaging in protected activity under the Whistleblower Protection Act), including intentional or willful violations of the Privacy Act, 5 USC 552a; disparate, unduly harsh, severe penalty; and mitigating circumstances.
In anticipation for the forthcoming individual formal EEO complaint of discrimination and retaliation/reprisal, I am submitting a request for the production of certain discovery materials without which I would be unable to prepare any defenses I might have regarding the letters of caution and fitness for duty. EEOC decisions have interpreted a "letter of caution" and a "letter of fitness for duty" as adverse actions and acts of retaliation and reprisal where appropriate.
Copies of the requests for discovery and production of documents are attached hereto marked as exhibit “A” and are incorporated by reference as though fully set out herein.
Without conducting a careful review of the materials requested, it would be impossible for me to respond to the accusations made against me. I have a Constitutional Due Process right to receive notice of the exact nature of the accusations made against me which, thus far, has been denied. The accusations made against me are neither clear nor specific and appear to be ambiguous, a matter which I will address, more specifically, in a Motion to Quash all the charges against me which will be filed, shortly. Although this is an administrative proceeding, I am entitled to all of the protections provided to me under the U.S. Constitution; the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure; the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; the Code of Federal Regulations; the Rules of Policy and Procedure of the U.S. Customs Service as well as the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Adverse Actions - An Adverse Action is any Customs initiated action adversely affecting an employee. It includes oral warnings, and letters of caution reprimand; suspensions from duty without pay; letter of fitness for duty; or reductions in grade or pay; furloughs without pay; and removals under Federal Personnel Manual (FPM) and DPM Chapters 315, 432, and 752.
A Letter of Admonishment, Caution, or Warning issued by the supervisor:
· Serves as a written notice, and/or confirmation of counseling, and/or verbal warning that conduct is unacceptable.
· Warns that disciplinary action may result if the unacceptable conduct continues.
· Is not a formal disciplinary action?
· Is not maintained in the employee's Official Personnel Folder.
· The issuing management official is required to advise the employee that he/she may grieve the issuance of the letter of admonishment, caution or warning, by following the grievance procedures in Directive 463.2 or a negotiated grievance procedure, whichever is applicable. You failed to advise me of the aforementioned.
NOTE: A copy of the supervisor's letter of admonishment, caution, or warning will be furnished to the LERB prior to issuance to enable the LERB to provide guidance to the supervisor in dealing with the situation. Thus, I am asserting that LER was involved in these two adverse actions.
Procedures for Oral Admonishments and Letters of Caution:
An oral admonishment shall not be counted as a prior offense when determining a remedy for disciplinary and adverse actions. A letter of caution/warning shall: (1) Specify the reasons for its issuance; (2) State that it will not be made a matter of record in an employee’s official personnel folder; (3) State that it will not be counted as a prior offense when determining a remedy as contained in enclosure. Letters of caution/warning may be retained by the employees' immediate supervisor for up to 1-year issuance from date of. Your letter of caution failed to mention the statements contained under items #2 and #3.
The U.S. Customs Service is required to follow its own Rules of Policy and Procedure, other Regulations, and to follow what it has established through custom and usage in cases that involve the same or similar circumstances that are presented by this case.
It is impossible to ascertain what the U.S. Customs Service has done, how it has handled other case that involve the same or similar circumstances and whether the Service is applying the same standard to all employees or if it is involved in disparate treatment of Hispanic special agents unless and until the items requested are produced.
RAIC Steve D. Arizaga made very serious accusations against me when he referred these matters to your office, the Labor and Employment Relation (LER) and possibly to the Office of Internal Affairs. The accusations included a very detailed list of conclusions that, he, Mr. Arizaga reached and that involved a lot more than the question of why I allowed be interviewed and photographed by the news reporter at the RAIC office.
For instance, did you know that the news reporter was a paid confidential informant who had legitimate businesses to be at the RAIC Office and who was debriefed for at least two hours by his controlling agent? Regarding the usage of a news reporter to be a Customs paid informant, did you know whether the Director, Investigative Operations Division approved the usage of this news reporter per Chapter 41 of the Special Agents Handbook prior to becoming an active confidential source of information?
Further, according to the source's controlling agent, prior to the interview and photograph session, Mr. Arizaga authorized a large payment to the source which according to the controlling agent, it surprised him because the information provided by the source did not merit the large payment. Was this large payment made for the purpose of "setting me up" with the alleged unauthorized media disclosure?
Further, did you know that I had been previously precluded from acting in an undercover capacity and as such my personal impression was that I was not to be considered for any undercover assignments? This incident caused me to file a formal EEO complaint of retaliation and harassment against Mr. Arizaga and certain management officials from your office. Furthermore, prior to the interview by the news reporter, I had not been informed that I was to be an undercover agent in an on-going investigation. However, even if we assume arguendo, which I knew about my alleged "anticipated undercover assignment," it is well known that participating in undercover assignments is considered to be voluntary rather than a directed assignment.
Also, your letter of caution contained a quote from the Customs Directive 099 5410-001, Customs News Media Policy, which you quoted as "Responses to news organizations must be tempered by concerns for ongoing investigations, sensitive foreign activities, operational factors, the exchange of intelligence, and matters in litigation." This quotation statement refers to information disclosed to news organizations, rather than employees disclosing personal information. The letter submitted to Acting SAIC Miguel Unzueta explained the reasons I allowed Mr. Torres interviewed me and photographed me.
Again, the main reason was out of public concern. No official information was disclosed at all other than to state my position and place of employment. As to Mr. Torres writing that I was "one of the best agents of special investigations…" I had nothing to do with this statement.
I am herewith requesting any and all investigations, conducted by the Service, into the veracity of the accusations and conclusions made by RAIC Arizaga, but not limited to, the following:
Whether I was "set-up" by RAIC Arizaga by sending the news reporter to interview me and photograph me in order to initiate a disciplinary/adverse actions against me and whether he attempted to use the above referenced to further retaliate against me for my protected disclosures and EEO complaints filed against him, the Customs Service and for my principal role in the ongoing class action lawsuit entitled, Miguel A. Contreras v. Paul O'Neill, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury.
Whether, the RAIC Yuma had authorization by the Director, Investigations Operations Division, HQ to utilize the news reporter in question as a confidential source of information; and whether there was a lawful informant related activity going on at the office when I was interviewed and photographed by the news reporter.
These are very serious charges which the U.S. Customs Service, undoubtedly, investigated. Please provide any and all reports that have been made regarding these issues and serious accusations. If no investigations were conducted into the accusations made by RAIC Arizaga, please provide me with any and all documents as to who made each and every, all and singular the names and supporting documents of the official or officials who made a decision not to investigate the accusations made by RAIC Arizaga.
Also requested herein is a request for any disciplinary action or actions that have been taken against RAIC Arizaga as a result of his continued retaliatory and harassment actions he has taken against me and which have been reported to the Office of Internal Affairs and the Office of Investigations. If none were taken, why not? In order to be in a position to present an adequate reply to these two adverse actions, it is necessary that the U. S. Customs Service provide me with the following information:
For the period March 6, 1998, through the present, copies of any proposed disciplinary or adverse actions issued to U. S. Customs Service employees for the offense of making unauthorized disclosures to news media organizations and/or like offenses/charges, and/or whether these employees were served with letters of fitness for duty after they reported to their supervisors that they were taking anti-depressants or tranquilizers. The documents requested in this request would be accepted in sanitized form (with the names deleted) in order to protect the privacy of the individuals involved;
Whether the special agents (GS-1811 criminal investigators) and other non-criminal investigators named in Exhibit A obtained authorization prior to being interviewed and in some cases photographed by news media organizations. Note: these employees were named in news articles where some of them disclosed investigative techniques, disclosed on-going investigations being conducted in the United States and in foreign countries. Also, some of these employees appeared in community profiles similar to the news article in question where I was interviewed and photographed where they identified themselves as employees of the U.S. Customs Service and gave their job title.
For the documents disclosed in response to the aforementioned requests, the final agency decision;
For the documents disclosed in response to the aforementioned requests, the decision after appeal, whether through the agency grievance process, a negotiated grievance process, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or any other administrative or judicial forum;
Copies of all documents applicable to the U. S. Customs Service concerning disciplinary and adverse actions, including regulations, handbooks, procedures, bulletins, and supplements;
Copies of any Table of Penalties applicable to U. S. Customs Service's employees;
Copies of any and all files, documents, memoranda, drafts, or notes maintained by the issuing officials (Mr.Arizaga), you, the Labor and Employee Relations (LER), or any other office in the U. S. Customs Service that mention or pertain to the following; me and my affirmative defenses; the proposed action against me; and any favorable information, including witness statements and any consideration of seeking a lesser penalty;
Copies of all proposed and final disciplinary and adverse actions, to include letters of caution and letter of fitness for duty taken against U. S. Customs Service employees in which Mr. Arizaga and you have served as proposing or deciding officials;
A copy of the U. S. Customs Service's official case files relating to these two matters: letter of caution and letter of fitness for duty;
A copy of my Official Personnel File, to include copies of my Official Security File maintained by the Office of Internal Affairs' Security Management Division, and my personal file maintained by the RAIC Yuma;
Copies of my performance appraisals/awards for the last five years;
Copies of all drafts of the letters of caution and fitness for duty and of any documents, records of advice, or notes, including notes made by, for, or regarding Mr. Arizaga's and your decision to propose the adverse actions at issue;
Copies of all communications from/to any official regarding the issuing of the two adverse actions: letter of caution and fitness for duty or my affirmative defenses thereto;
Any other documents relating to these two adverse actions regarding my past employment records that have not yet been furnished to me.
If you refuse to disclose this information, and only upon such refusal, you are then to consider this request for information to be made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552, and the Privacy Act, 5 USC 552a. If you refuse to disclose any of the information under either of those statutes, then please state your specific reasons for such refusal. I believe that this request is in the public interest. Therefore, I ask that you waive any search and/or copying fees. As provided for in the Freedom of Information Act, I will expect to receive a reply within 10 working days.
If you have any questions concerning this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.
//s// MIGUEL ANGEL CONTRERAS
1. John Hensley
2. J. Stephen Coffman
3. William DeArmond
4. Marty Ficke
5. Tommy Austin
6. Phillip Osborn
7. Greg Stine
8. Layne Lathram
9. Don Huyke
10. John Peterson
11. William Studdard
12. Donald Davfenbach
13. James McShane
14. Gabriel Hagan
15. Lisa Fairchild
16. Van Brown Vanaster
17. Joe Lozano
18. Bonnie Goldblatt
19. Gregory Todd Shewmake
20. Robert Hutchinson
21. Elisa Brown
22. Dick Weart
23. Julius McGruder
24. Kenneth W. Cates
25. Joseph O'Kane
26. Steven M. Perez
27. Brian M. Moskovitz
28. Roger L. Aarons
29. Glen Nick
30. Rich Cesarini
31. Eric Caron
32. Burt Forsythe
33. Shane Folden
34. William Siebert
35. Edward Dempsey
36. Al Richert
37. Mike Chapman
38. Joseph Kupsche
39. Edward Dempsey
40. Colin Hendry
41. Matt Allen
42. Jeffrey Jordan
43. Mickey Pledger
44. Kenneth Kilroy
Iglio did not respond to the above FOIA request - of interest to note is that during the preparation of an appeal case I had pending before the MSPB, I queried the listed employees who had been interviewed and found no record in the web, most of the news stories have been deleted from the Internet with the exception where the Customs employee was a high ranking official such as a special agent in charge.
Vincent Iglio by failing to process my FOIA request violated Agency’s policy and the CFR with regarding FOIA requests.
Exhibit No. 6
Sex-case defendant gets probation: Frank Figueroa 'tarnished the badge' of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a former colleague says - Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) - May 13, 2006 Saturday
May 13--An Orange County judge on Friday sentenced a top federal agent to a year's probation after he pleaded no contest to exposing himself to a 16-year-old girl at Mall at Millenia last year.
Judge Leon Cheek III also barred Frank Figueroa, 49, from malls and food courts where children gather and limited his contact with minors during his probation. Cheek withheld adjudication of guilt against prosecutors' wishes, meaning there will be no record of a conviction. Figueroa, a 30-year federal customs and immigration veteran, will keep his pension after his planned retirement in August.
Cheek also ordered Figueroa, the suspended head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Central and North Florida, to undergo a psychological evaluation and write a letter of apology to the victim. He must pay a $500 court fine and complete 200 hours of community service.
Before his current job, Figueroa was in charge of Operation Predator -- a federal program that deports foreigners convicted of sex crimes.
Within six months, Cheek said he will schedule another court hearing to decide how much restitution Figueroa should pay to the victim's family for travel costs and lost wages.
Homeland-security officials would not address Figueroa's job status or a pending internal investigation by the department's Office of Inspector General. Jamie Zuieback, a homeland-security spokeswoman, said the department "has taken necessary and appropriate steps to sever his ties with the agency while protecting the privacy and interests of his family."
Figueroa was arrested Oct. 25 after the girl told mall security officers that Figueroa fondled himself for about 10 minutes while he sat in the mall's food court.
At Friday's sentencing, Figueroa questioned that account even as he said he took "responsibility" for his actions. He told the judge he "had been scratching" himself and may have "inadvertently" exposed himself.
A. Brian Phillips, Figueroa's attorney, told Cheek his client had been punished enough and should not be held to a higher standard simply because of his stature.
After the 90-minute hearing, the victim's mother said Figueroa was a sexual predator even though he will not carry that designation as a result of his sentence.
"I have no doubt in my mind about his guilt. . . . He's sick, and I feel sorry for his family," said the mother, whose name is being withheld to protect her daughter's identity.
Figueroa's wife and 14-year-old daughter testified on his behalf Friday.
C.C. Savage, a retired federal agent and former Figueroa colleague, criticized the light sentence and said Figueroa had brought shame on the agency.
"I think he tarnished the badge of everyone who ever worked in customs and immigration enforcement," Savage said after the sentencing.
According to Orange County court data, judges withhold adjudication of guilt 28 percent of the time in similar cases.
In 210 out of 740 cases where guilt was withheld, 59 defendants got probation and 151 received some jail time. The rest got some jail time and probation.
End of story
I agree with C.C. Savage….I personally know C.C. Savage from back when carrying a U.S. Customs Service Special Agent badge and credentials with the signature of Customs Commissioner William Von Raab meant something.
Here is another sad story…..
THE MESS AT DHS
By Michelle Malkin April 7, 2006
Brian J. Doyle: Just one of many creeps and losers at DHS
The arrest of Department of Homeland Security spokesman Brian J. Doyle on felony charges of sexually preying on a undercover cop posing as a 14-year-old girl this week is just the latest debacle for the bureaucratic behemoth.
I dealt with Doyle a few times while reporting on the incompetence of leaders at the Federal Air Marshals Service over the past couple of years. He was a standard-issue, CYA mouthpiece. And as disgusted rank-and-file employees of the agency will tell you, DHS is full of them.
The mess at DHS stands as Towering Reason Number One to oppose the Senate’s border security sellout. For the last four years, I’ve reported repeatedly on the immigration bureaucracy’s inability to enforce our laws and protect the American public–let alone protect its own employees and police itself.
Leadership positions under the Bush administration’s pre-9/11 INS and post-9/11 DHS have been filled by cronies with little or no experience in immigration law and immigration enforcement.
Exhibit No. 7
What is the relationship of JAMES C. SPERO, Deputy Assistant Director, Office of Investigations, ICE, Headquarters, DHS and DEBORAH J. SPERO, Deputy Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection who retired in August 2007? Kenneth Bates, the Director for Human Resources, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, stated that if the above two individuals are family related, a complaint of NEPOTISM can be filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Exhibit No. 8
Jayson P. Ahern
Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
On March 1, 2009, Jayson P. Ahern was named Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, following the retirement of Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, and is responsible for securing, managing and controlling our Nation’s borders. Mr. Ahern will remain Acting Commissioner until a successor is named by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate. Unfortunately Mr. Ahearn is a terrible example for all CBP employees due to his dark side and closet full of skeletons. This writer is amazed how employees such as Jay Ahearn can stay on the job for such a long time. What about the vetting process?
US Customs Derelict On Policing Itself, Leading To Abuses
David Kidwell - Miami Herald - May 9, 1999
U.S. Customs' failure to punish employees in scores of corruption cases has allowed tons of illegal drugs to enter the country, let billions in illicit cash back out and jeopardized hundreds of criminal cases, according to records obtained in an eight-month Herald investigation.
Aided by more than 500 interviews and six dozen frustrated Customs veterans around the nation who risked careers to provide thousands of internal documents.
The Herald found widespread incompetence and dereliction of duty within the frontline agency in the nation's war on drugs.In one 1995 case, Customs botched a promising internal investigation of a "fraternity of corrupt inspectors" who several informants said were taking millions in bribes to allow cocaine across the Southwest border.
No action was taken against the suspects after a probe in which senior managers denied investigators' requests for video surveillance equipment and unmarked cars, and refused to authorize undercover agents to approach the suspects with bribe offers.
Slow, haphazard, often nonexistent response to internal allegations of wrongdoing -- including bribery on the border, rampant cargo theft in New Orleans, disappearing property in Miami, embezzlement, fraud, rape, even pedophilia -- has led to breakdowns in Customs' broad mission to collect money, enforce trade laws and stop contraband from penetrating the nation's borders.
"When you have people who are getting away with things, when you have the low morale that comes with that, logic tells you it has to affect the mission," said Carol Hallett, a former Customs commissioner whose reforms were dismantled in the early 1990s.
Customs administrators -- facing Senate hearings starting Thursday to examine management shortcomings -- acknowledge failures, but argue that the agency's overall mission is affected only in isolated cases.
However, some critics, including one past Customs commissioner, say internal problems and weak management have so affected Customs that it may be time to cut back on the agency's role in major criminal investigations.
New Commissioner Raymond Kelly, appointed in August after two years overseeing Customs as undersecretary of Treasury, says sweeping reforms under his management have begun to repair Customs' battered image.
"Customs has continued to do a good job in a difficult situation," Kelly said, citing thousands of honest employees who remain proud of their accomplishments.
"But it's clear internal affairs has been ineffective. It's clear employees here deserve a more fair organization.
"The bottom line is it all gets back to whoever is in this seat. Accountability stops with me."
The Herald found dozens of instances in which Customs' failures were treated leniently. They demonstrate a widespread inability to cope with problem employees.
In New Orleans, tens of thousands of dollars in uninspected imports were stolen in 1996 from a private storage company that gave gifts to and received favors from the chief Customs inspector. The company remains a bonded warehouse, and the chief inspector kept his job.
In Miami, seized knives allegedly disappeared from a property room overseen by a Customs supervisor who rose to the position despite lying on his job application about previous arrests, alcoholism and three previous firings. He has since been promoted.
In Chicago, hundreds of child pornography cases were jeopardized after a regional commissioner there was accused by male subordinates of forcing himself on them sexually in 1991. He retired without charges.
In Minneapolis, child pornography cases could be endangered because an agent was allowed to keep his job after he acknowledged to police in 1995 that he solicited underage boys for oral sex. More allegations of child molestation surfaced against the agent last year. Following Herald inquiries, Customs is moving to fire him.
In Washington, an agent accused internally of embezzling nearly $20,000 was given only a letter of reprimand, in part because the problem was so widespread in the agency and no one else was being punished.
Customs administrators decline to discuss specific cases, but argue that for every anecdote of wrongdoing, they can show five of exceptional work.
It is nearly impossible to gauge Customs' performance in any systematic way. A criticism from federal auditors has been the agency's failure to develop ways to measure its own performance.
For the past decade, dozens of whistleblowers -- federal prosecutors, agents, inspectors, even Customs managers -- have reported mission failures based on what they say is the agency's unwillingness to aggressively investigate internal corruption.
"It does not matter whether this is due to bribes, sexual favors, real or threatened blackmail, or just plain fear of standing up and being counted," wrote John J. Juhasz, former special agent in charge of internal affairs in Arizona, in a 1991 letter to the commissioner. "It places our entire system of law enforcement in jeopardy."
Congressional orders to fix the problem have gone unheeded in large part Customs' defenders portray the problem as more a culture of whiners than a culture of favoritism.
"I don't think there is a huge problem with Customs," said Michael Lane, Customs second-in-command for 10 years until he left in 1996.
"These employees come forward with issues of their own, and they say there is systemic corruption," he said. "Well, I can't tell you how many outside agencies have looked for it and cannot find it."
Many interviewed are less certain.
"It's like taking a metal detector to the beach," a high-ranking Customs employee said. "You cannot say there are no gold coins if the detector you're using is broken."
Commissioner Kelly acknowleges that the detector has been ineffective for years.
BRIBERY ON THE BORDER?
Consider Operation Unknown Inspector. From any perspective, the case was bungled. In 1994, two brother-and-sister drug traffickers looking to buy time off their sentences came to internal affairs offering to identify more than a dozen corrupt Customs inspectors and agents on the Southwest border who had taken millions in bribes to allow drugs in and cash out.
They said inspectors were taking $500 to $1,000 per kilogram of cocaine, and a percentage of billions in cash stuffed inside shipments of hollow doors allowed to pass through inspection lanes.
The brother said he had made bribe payments. The sister, who is still working with Customs as an informant, had close ties to Mexican government officials suspected of drug trafficking. They were believed by Customs from the start, records show.
Several independent, confidential informants corroborated the allegations.
Allegedly corrupt inspectors were picked out of photo lineups by the sources.
Supporting information came from more than a dozen other sources, including Customs employees and Mexican police.
Computer checks showed that agents and inspectors had passed suspect vehicles without inspection, including one in which a load of cocaine was lost inside the United States. An agent suspected of taking bribes ordered border inspectors to ignore a computer warning labeling the vehicle "armed and dangerous."
Several of the inspectors had been subjects of previous internal investigations, including one accused of skimming marijuana from a seizure in Miami.
One confidential source, 54-year-old Benjamin Gildardo Bojorquez -- sent in by internal affairs to infiltrate the drug organization and identify corrupt inspectors -- was murdered in Mexico with a bullet to the back of the head within days after he telephoned internal affairs in Calexico, Calif., with promising new information.
Customs considered the possibility of a leak.
Records show that the investigators on the case -- Special Agent Bruce Durbin and Inspector Charles Mazon -- were denied requests for video surveillance, citizen-band radios, increased outside help, and integrity tests in which sources would make direct approaches to suspect inspectors.
When they complained to higher-ups and outside agencies, matters got worse, they later wrote in an internal complaint.
"We feel that we are being chastised for pursuit of our administrative privileges and for reporting improprieties within the office of internal affairs," they wrote in an August 1995 internal memo.
In the end, Customs supervisors ordered the investigation closed, referring to the case as a paper tiger and calling Mazon and Durbin incompetent and "amateurs" more prone to filing complaints than investigating corruption.
Prior to his complaints, Durbin received high praise from supervisors, Treasury records show.
In 1995, Customs turned the case over to the multi-agency Border Corruption Task Force, after most confidential sources involved in the case "expressed concern that if they were introduced to a task force, then their safety would be jeopardized," reports said.
The investigation fizzled.
Durbin and Mazon, both still Customs employees, declined to discuss the case.
Customs managers interviewed agreed they erred in giving such an important case to allegedly inexperienced agents.
None of the agents and inspectors targeted in Operation Unknown Inspector was disciplined or transferred. Those contacted by The Herald declined to comment.
CARGO THEFT PROBED
Focus turned to gifts
In New Orleans, Customs and the Treasury Department investigated 1996 allegations surrounding rampant cargo theft at a Customs examination station. Entire cargo containers were stolen, as well as a pallet of VCRs, T-shirts, household goods, tons of copper scrap and aluminum ingots, stereo equipment and Beefeater gin.
"Security was literally nonexistent at the CES," wrote Clyde McCoy, a senior special agent investigating the fraud allegations, in a May 29, 1998, memo.
In 1996, records show, Customs Chief Inspector Robert Galloway initiated an investigation of the five Customs employees assigned to the station. But the investigation eventually turned back on Galloway and his relationship with the private company that owned the examination station.
Records and interviews show: Galloway accepted expensive gift baskets sent to his home and fishing trips from executives of Gallagher Transport & Storage, which ran the troubled facility.
Galloway attempted in 1995 to acquire for the company several hundred feet of concrete barriers from Louisiana transportation officials.
Galloway's brother-in-law, Customs Inspector Joseph Nuccio, waived a required background investigation when Gallagher Transport applied for a Customs permit in 1991.
"It was very unusual, definitely. It was a required thing. I didn't waive it on my own," Nuccio told The Herald. "I think my supervisors told me to go ahead and waive it."
A former Gallagher employee who spoke to The Herald on the condition of anonymity said she told Treasury investigators two years ago about the expensive gift baskets and fishing trips.
Customs policy prohibits gifts of anything more than nominal value.
Galloway, now director of drug policy enforcement in the New Orleans region, listened to the allegations and declined to comment to The Herald.
Craig Maloney, the general manager at Gallagher Transport who employees said ordered the gifts for Galloway, also declined to discuss the investigation or his alleged relationship with Galloway.
KNIVES AT ISSUE IN MIAMI
Were they missing?
Another case of missing property was alleged in Miami in 1996.
An accused switchblade smuggler fought Customs for the return of about 567 of more than 2,000 knives seized during a raid in North Miami Beach in 1995. He won.
But when he went to retrieve the knives, 160 were not returned, court records allege.
Customs spokesman Michael Sheehan said three separate counts were conducted in 1996 in attempts to address the allegation. Following Herald inquiries, Customs conducted a review of the counts and maintained that no knives were missing or ever had been.
Following a request for the records, however, Customs opened an internal affairs investigation into "discrepancies" in the counts, Sheehan said. Citing the "ongoing internal affairs investigation," Customs declined to provide the records.
In charge of the property room at the time was Mark Edwards, now 51, who was promoted through the ranks after he was caught lying on his 1987 job application regarding arrests for domestic violence, longstanding problems with alcohol, being fired from three previous jobs, and denial of a military security clearance.
He has since been promoted to the Customs officer in charge of the Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture office in South Florida -- the custodian of millions of dollars in seized property and cash.
The Herald has no evidence he was involved directly with the seized knives. He declined to comment.
Child porn cases affected
In 1991, hundreds of child pornography cases in the Midwest were jeopardized when Assistant Regional Commissioner Donald Watson, now 62, was allowed to retire without charges after four Customs agents he had recruited as college interns signed sworn statements that he forced himself on them sexually during business trips.
One said he had been drugged and raped by Watson, who oversaw investigations in 18 Midwestern states.
Many child porn defendants negotiated more lenient sentences because of the Watson investigation.
"That's when I really began to question this whole outfit," said one Customs investigator on the case. "When they let the Watson case take a walk."
Said Watson: "It's been a tough number of years and I don't want to resurrect it."
Customs may now be faced with a similar case.
Steven Suhr, 35, a Minneapolis agent who has investigated child pornography cases, was allowed to remain on the payroll in 1995 after he acknowledged to police that he tried to solicit underage teenage boys for oral sex. The boys stabbed him in a Kettering, Ohio, park.
Last year, two other men accused Suhr of molesting them for money when they were 10 to 12 years old.
After Customs found that Suhr had illegally used agency computers to research the boys' backgrounds, he was put on administrative leave with pay, where he has remained for more than a year. There are no criminal charges.
Following Herald inquiries, Customs has begun procedures to fire him. Suhr declined to comment. How his criminal cases are affected is yet unknown.
LENIENCY OVER MONEY
In 1993, Customs' top brass decided not to charge one of its agents with embezzlement after he failed to report overpayments of $18,373 over a two-year period.
There were essentially two reasons for the leniency, according to the June 3, 1993, final report. The first was that he promptly returned the money after the error was caught. The second was that no one else was being disciplined despite a widespread problem with similar overpayments.
Paul Chambers, since promoted to resident agent in charge in Cincinnati, was initially given a 14-day suspension -- later mitigated to a letter of reprimand for poor judgment. "There were far too many situations where salary overpayments were permitted to exist beyond termination dates," wrote John Eichelberger, a high-level Customs fact finder, citing a similar Miami case in which Customs demanded a $10,000 repayment and "there was no disciplinary action."
Commissioner Kelly will not discuss specific cases, but said he has established a "cold case unit" to examine past failures in internal affairs. (The reader is kindly directed to go back and read about the death of Legacy U.S. Customs Service Gary Paul Friedli)
In an April 29 speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, he talked openly about the agency's failings. "While instances of corruption in the ranks of the Customs service are very few, the agency's response to the problem has not always been good," Kelly said. "Some thought that if we didn't look for the problem, it might just go away.
"The problem didn't go away, however," he continued. "It stayed there and continued to sap the morale of the vast majority of honest, hard-working Customs agents and inspectors. . . . There was a failure to recognize how dangerous the corruption threat was to the agency." firstname.lastname@example.org
BORDER AGENCY PROTECTS ITS OWN DESPITE MISDEEDS
The Miami Herald - David Kidwell, Herald Staff Writer - December 13, 1998
Border Agency Protects Its Own Despite Misdeeds [The Miami Herald says its investigation of the U.S. Customs Service's employment practices in Florida found that the agency has promoted officers caught dating drug smugglers, wrecking an agency car after drinking, tampering with evidence, and helping a key witness leave the country. The newspaper's investigation, prompted by disclosures that the Customs Service's head agent in South Florida got the job after 2 1/2 years of failed management elsewhere, reveals a culture that often protects favored employees from their own mistakes yet hammers those who go public with criticism.]
Despite longstanding orders from Congress to eradicate "cronyism,'' the U.S. Customs Service promoted Florida officers caught dating drug smugglers, wrecking an agency car after drinking, tampering with evidence, and helping a key witness leave the country.
A review of the agency's employment practices -- prompted by disclosures its head agent in South Florida got the job after 2 1/2 years of failed management elsewhere -- reveals a culture that often protects favored employees from their own mistakes yet hammers those who go public with criticism.
The Herald found dozens of examples in South Florida and elsewhere in which Customs employees at all levels either kept their jobs and pay grades or were promoted after such misdeeds as sleeping with a paid informant, skimming seized cash, even sexually assaulting female subordinates.
In one case, several Miami supervisors were all promoted to high-ranking positions -- including Customs director at Miami International Airport -- after numerous employees accused them in 1987 of rampant sexual harassment, including fostering a sex-for-jobs atmosphere.
One runs operations in Tampa, where his office is now under investigation on similar complaints.
Angry federal regulators identified problems with "good ol' boy networks'' almost a decade ago, and have repeatedly said they raise questions about Customs' overall integrity, its competence to police U.S. borders, and its ability to police itself.
"These problems are real,'' said U.S. Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who on Aug. 4 became the sixth person to run the agency in the past 10 years "I have to address a lack of attention to some serious, serious issues.
"And anyone who knows anything about federal bureaucracy knows it is very difficult.''
Some longtime Customs administrators say critics exaggerate the problems.
They say it's unfair to judge entire careers on a single mistake, that discipline and promotions must be based on past accomplishments as well as transgressions.
"I don't see it as an issue of favoritism,'' said Bonni Tischler, assistant commissioner of the office of investigations "With the discipline system we're forced to live with, it's a matter of win some and lose some.''
More than 150 interviews with current and former Customs employees, along with a review of thousands of records -- from internal Customs reports to congressional hearing transcripts -- suggest the problems go much deeper.
Without complete access to confidential personnel files it is impossible to judge Customs' decisions in each individual case, or even to know specific charges against agents.
But the volume of cases where punishment appears to be lenient suggests management problems persist.
A few examples:
Agent Walt Wilkowski, promoted to Washington after he ignored advice to dump his long term live-in girlfriend in 1996 as DEA agents secretly tapped his Miami home phone. A search warrant was executed at his house, and his girlfriend jailed on charges of drug smuggling. Wilkowski denied involvement, including allegations she obtained from him and disseminated secret Customs information. There was no evidence Wilkowski knew about the crimes.
The girlfriend faces sentencing this month. Wilkowski was not disciplined.
"I had no knowledge of, or involvement with, the incident in which my former girlfriend was arrested,'' Wilkowski said in a written response "I can assure you that my most recent promotion was based solely on my own merits.''
Had he been investigated on internal charges of "association with persons connected with criminal activities,'' guidelines would have called for at least a 14-day suspension.
Inspector Vincent Priore, a supervisor accused in the sex-for-jobs harassment case in Miami, promoted to direct operations at Port Everglades, where last year he was investigated on allegations he repeatedly took time off without authorization, then filed paperwork suggesting he was at work.
Priore told the Herald the investigation is not complete, and he denies the allegations. He now runs Customs operations in Bermuda.
Had he been charged with being "absent without leave or authorization'' for five days or more, guidelines would have called for at least a 14-day suspension.
Agent James O'Rourke, promoted to group supervisor in the Fort Lauderdale office in 1996 after he lost control of his Customs car in Coconut Creek on April 21, 1995, jumped a curb, then got in a cab and left the damaged car unsecured -- with his gun in the trunk -- before police arrived.
Witnesses said O'Rourke was "very intoxicated'' when he emerged from the car and began beating on it with a riot baton. O'Rourke later acknowledged he had been drinking and said he used the riot baton to break a window because he was locked out.
He was suspended for several days, but neither he nor Customs would specify the punishment.
Under charges of "willful'' vehicle misuse, guidelines would have called for at least a 30-day suspension.
Agent Ron Woody, awarded a coveted "executive potential'' training program after he was caught in his Customs' car soliciting a Miami undercover police officer posing as a prostitute in 1994. His record was cleared after he agreed to a pre-trial intervention program.
He was suspended for several days. Customs would not say how many. Until Herald inquiries, he was considered a top candidate for a management promotion.
Contacted at work, he declined to be interviewed.
Had he been charged internally with "criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, notoriously disgraceful conduct, or other conduct prejudicial to the government'' guidelines would have called for at least a 14-day suspension.
Inspector Jose Ramirez, promoted to a high-level Miami headquarters job despite being caught placing marijuana cigarettes in the luggage of a cruise passenger at Port Everglades. Ramirez said he found the cigarettes in the suspect's cabin, then transferred them to his baggage to help prove they belonged to the suspect. The passenger later acknowledged the drugs were his Ramirez received an oral reprimand.
Under Customs' guidelines "intentional falsification, misrepresentation, exaggeration or misstatement of material fact . . . '' would have called for at least a 5-day suspension and at least a seven-day suspension for "failure to observe established policies or procedures in the apprehension or detention of suspects.''
Several Miami supervisors of the nation's most successful drug interdiction team, all promoted despite a 1987 sex-for-jobs sexual harassment case in which five men and four women employees filed affidavits supporting an inspector who said she faced a choice between sex with her bosses or a stagnant career.
Tampa Port Director Van Capps, who headed the team and received a letter of reprimand over the case, is accused of condoning similar attitudes in his current command. He and all the other accused supervisors -- including MIA Director Jayson Ahern -- deny the charges.
Customs' guidelines say sexual harassment calls for at least an official reprimand, at worst removal.
Former Senior Agent Wayne Roberts, promoted to Customs Attaché in Caracas, Venezuela despite being the target of a Miami criminal grand jury probe in 1991. He was questioned about his role in the secret removal from the U.S. of a government witness set to testify in the trial of deposed Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega. He was also publicly accused by Customs management of giving false statements about it to his superiors.
There were no indictments.
Reached in Caracas, Roberts denied that he lied and declined to elaborate.
Had he been charged internally with "negligent or careless performance of duties where . . . a Customs enforcement function is substantially and negatively impacted,'' guidelines call for at least a 5-day suspension.
Inspector Regis Adams, former Customs port director in Akron, Ohio, was allowed to keep his job until he retired even after he spent 90 days in jail in 1987 for sexually assaulting two of his female employees. He was originally charged with rape, but was allowed to plead no contest to two misdemeanor charges of sexual imposition.
Citing privacy laws that protect federal employees, Customs administrators declined to discuss specific cases or punishments.
Many Customs insiders defend the agency's overall employment system as cumbersome, but fair. However, they lament federal employee civil service protections that make it expensive -- often impossible -- to fire anyone short of felony convictions or gross misconduct.
They suggest those protections sometimes leave managers shuffling a deck of incompetent employees.
Dozens of Customs employees argue that once anyone files a grievance they are targeted for harassment, forcing them into filing more grievances to be treated fairly. "From them on, the grievance process becomes your life,'' one inspector said.
D. Lynn Gordon, district director in charge of all inspectors in South Florida, disagrees.
"Frankly, when I look at the sheer volume of employee complaints we deal with -- from EEO, the union, internal grievances -- I find it extremely difficult to accept the notion that anyone feels reticent about coming forward with problems,'' she said. "I think we have an extremely open, fair-minded policy.''
Many within the agency say reform is long overdue.
"I'm ashamed of them,'' said veteran Senior Inspector Croley Forester, who says supervisors told him his career advancement was finished in 1997 after he went public with security problems at Miami International Airport.
"I love what I do. I think this job really makes a difference, but what's happening in this agency disgusts me, it really does,'' Forester said.
"Nothing ever changes. If you stand up to them, right or wrong, your career is over.''
The public record backs him up.
Critics in Congress say Customs' management problems have been chronic, and at the root of all the agency's other problems.
Congressional oversight panels have publicly accused its managers of cover ups, lies and withholding information repeatedly over the past 15 years.
The U.S. General Accounting Office consistently criticized the agency's internal financial controls as in "total disarray'' from 1985 through 1994.
Whistleblowers have testified of airport security lapses, systematic internal theft of seized guns, illegal is appropriation of millions of dollars, embezzlement and corruption.
Almost without exception, those who blow the whistle on management problems have been subjected to ostracism, harassment, even unfounded firings, regulators have concluded. Often, transgressors move up the ladder.
"Customs is not able to properly deal with allegations of wrongdoing,'' former U.S. Rep. J.J. Pickle, D-Texas, said on July 31, 1991, as he chaired one of numerous congressional investigations into alleged corruption and mismanagement.
"Instead of taking action to eliminate the old boys’ network, Customs officials ignore improprieties, perpetuate cronyism and foster an atmosphere of unprofessionalism,'' he said. "Customs is in need of a major overhaul immediately.''
Too Much Power
That same year, a Customs task force confirmed Congressional complaints that regional managers were invested with too much power.
"Confused and competing lines of authority, the absence of clear and enforced policies for recruitment, mobility and career paths and a personnel process driven by various `old boy' networks created this situation,'' the task force said.
Customs Made Efforts At Reform
A headquarters-based disciplinary review board, with a rotating membership, was formed in 1995 to independently review all internal investigations of wrongdoing and suggest punishment in the most severe cases.
Another headquarters review process was established to address, in part, allegations that favored employees were allowed -- and sometimes encouraged -- to embellish promotional applications.
That process recently led to a Miami agent's removal from consideration for a management job after questionable claims were found on his application.
Also in 1995, Customs won a clean financial audit for the first time in a decade.
A Broad Mandate
Customs defenders argue the agency is a bureaucracy like no other. Its mandates are enormous and diverse.
Its 20,000 employees collect some $20 billion each year in duties, seizures and tariffs at more than 300 ports of entry, all the while processing some 450 million people entering the country.
It is charged with stopping illegal drugs and contraband, yet is asked to give visitors a good first impression. It must enforce trade laws while it promotes free trade. It must inspect and regulate cargo carriers, while ensuring unencumbered commerce.
Kelly, the new commissioner, said attempted reforms have not addressed fundamental flaws. (NOTE: Raymond W. Kelly lied to the U.S. Senate during his confirmation hearing for the position of U.S. Treasury's Undersecretary for Enforcement regarding his private dealings with IGI). Yet, Kelly was the man selected to bring changes to the U.S. Customs Service. The only changes he made were to go after any employee who had filed EEO complaints, arbitration complaints, filed complaints with the Treasury's OIG etc.)
Severe Morale Problems
He acknowledges the agency's mission is hampered by severe morale problems, by managers who won't honestly evaluate bad employees because it's a tedious process that likely won't stand up anyway, by employees who often won't aggressively pursue drug enforcement for fear of offending the wrong company or the wrong supervisor.
"These are all issues that are very difficult to get your arms around,'' said Kelly, a former U.S. Marine Corps colonel with a reputation for integrity."There is definitely a go-along, get-along mentality to overcome. It's my job to buoy the spirit of the organization, to make people feel good about their jobs again.''
Among his suggestions:
Strip some power from local managers, with headquarters taking greater control of promotions, discipline, hiring and policy decisions.
A more independent grievance procedure, where Customs Equal Employment Opportunity officers no longer report to the bosses who are often the targets of complaints, and more potent internal affairs investigators. A top candidate to take over internal investigations under Kelly is former acting U.S. Attorney in South Florida, William Keefer.
A heavily regulated self-inspection program where operations at regional offices are reviewed every 18 months instead of every four to six years.
"I understand I have a lot of untangling of lines to do,'' Kelly said."I think the answer is strengthening controls right here. It's more a matter of philosophy than resources. It has to come from the top down.
"I have a huge challenge,'' Kelly said. "We'll see. The jury is out.''
MIAMI — Bribery. Drug trafficking. Immigrant smuggling.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to stop these types of crimes.
But instead, so many of its officers have been charged with committing those crimes themselves that their boss in Washington recently issued an alert about the "disturbing events" and the "increase in the number of employee arrests."
Thomas Winkowski, assistant commissioner of field operations, wrote a memo to more than 20,000 officers nationwide noting that employees must behave professionally at all times — even when they are not on the job.
"It is our responsibility to uphold the laws, not break the law," Winkowski wrote in the Nov. 16 memo, which was obtained by The Miami Herald. Winkowski could not be reached for comment.
Winkowski's memo cites several employee arrests involving domestic violence, driving under the influence and drug possession. But court records show that Customs and Border Protection officers and other Department of Homeland Security employees from South Florida to the Mexican border states have been charged with dozens of far more serious offenses.
Among them: A Customs and Border Protection officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was charged in February with conspiring to assist a New York drug ring under investigation by tapping into sensitive federal databases.
Winkowski's warning signals an overwhelming preoccupation with public perception in the era after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Two highly controversial issues, illegal immigration and national security, have thrust Homeland Security into the public eye as it tries to prevent another terrorist attack.
The bureaucratic behemoth grew out of a controversial consolidation five years ago of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Employees of both agencies joined either of two new agencies: Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known for their acronyms CBP and ICE.
CBP handles the border, airports and seaports; ICE investigates immigration- and customs-law violators.
"We as an agency are constantly policing ourselves so that the public trust is not diminished as a result of inappropriate activity, whether it's on the job, off the job, criminal or not criminal," said Zachary Mann, a special agent and CBP spokesman in Miami.
Some ICE employees also have been caught up in episodes of alleged misconduct — although a senior Miami-area official said he was not aware of any increase in criminal or administrative actions.
"I haven't noticed an uptick in misbehavior, even though we have had a substantial increase in personnel since the merger," said Anthony Mangione, the ICE Miami special agent in charge.
Administrative incidents are normally kept quiet by federal authorities. But officials can't control publicity when misconduct escalates to serious criminal behavior, such as the February case involving the CBP officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Elizabeth Moran-Toala, a six-year veteran, was accused of accessing an electronic database known as the Treasury Enforcement Communications System, which serves as a tool to stop illegal drug imports.
According to an indictment, she is accused of tapping into the system several times to pass along information to a Delta Airlines baggage handler who was conspiring with a drug ring to transport cocaine and heroin on flights from the Dominican Republic to New York. Moran-Toala, 36, was transferred to New York in late February for prosecution.
Other recent South Florida cases — mirroring a pattern on the border states — have involved officers and agents accused of accepting illegal payoffs for migrant smuggling, drug trafficking, witness tampering, embezzlement and rape.
CBP and ICE managers say these cases simply reflect individual criminal behavior, not the culture of the married agencies.
But some longtime employees said administrative incidents, such as hostile confrontations or heavy drinking, may reflect the low morale and intense rivalries after the merger of federal agencies under Homeland Security.
Some employees from the old INS are the most vocal in their complaints. They bitterly denounce employees who came from the old Customs Service for "seizing control" of both CBP and ICE, "lording it over" former INS employees and showing disdain toward immigration-related work.
Expected to improve efficiency, the merger has instead spawned tension. Both CBP and ICE scored near the bottom in a 2007 survey of employee satisfaction at 222 federal government agencies.
Mangione, the ICE agent, dismissed the notion that employee misbehavior is a result of post-merger friction.
"An employee smuggling aliens has nothing to do with the merger," Mangione said. "It's somebody being a criminal."
U.S. Border Patrol Corruption Cases on the Rise
Digital Journal Published Apr 24, 2009
As security tightens along the porous US border with Mexico, authorities are seeing an alarming increase of corruption and bribery cases among US Border Patrol agents.
Fourteen Border agents have been arrested on corruption charges so far this year, adding to the twenty-one arrests of officers during fiscal 2008. This represents a substantial increase over previous years, and appears to be the result of ramped up efforts by Mexican drug cartels to evade border security.
Most of the violations seem to center around bribery charges, as drug cartels brazenly use money and sex to influence officers. Eighty-four officers have been arrested since 2004, resulting in 62 convictions. The Department of Homeland Security has also reported an increase in corruption cases.
Border security has become a hot-button issue as of late, resulting in more walls, more cameras and more violence along the border the US shares with its neighbor Mexico. In recent weeks, drug cartel violence has flared throughout much of Mexico leaving scores dead.
On April 19th, in what Mexico City police described as “a well planned attack” as many as twenty gunmen shot and killed eight law officers in an attempt to free a cartel member being held by local police
Bribery. Drug trafficking. Migrant smuggling.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to stop these types of crimes. But instead, so many of its officers ave been charged with committing those crimes themselves that their boss in Washington recently issued an alert about the ”disturbing events” and the “increase in the number of employee arrests.”
Thomas S. Winkowski, assistant commissioner of field operations, wrote a memo to more than 20,000 officers nationwide noting that employees must behave professionally at all times — even when they are not on the job.
”It is our responsibility to uphold the laws, not break the law,” Winkowski wrote in the Nov. 16 memo obtained by The Miami Herald.
Winkowski’s memo cites several employee arrests involving domestic violence, driving under the influence and drug possession. But court records show that CBP officers and other Department of Homeland Security employees from South Florida to the Mexican Border States have been charged with dozens of far more serious offenses.
Among them: A Customs and Border Protection officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was charged in February with conspiring to assist a New York drug ring under investigation by tapping into sensitive federal databases.
Winkowski, a former director of field operations in Miami, called such misconduct “unacceptable.” He told The Miami Herald that while he wrote the memo because of an uptick in employee arrests last fall, he didn’t believe the problem was pervasive.
”Do I belive this is widespread in our organization? No, I do not,” Winkowski said in an interview Tuesday. “Are there examples where we fall short? Yes. We always have to guard against falling short.”
Winkowski’s warning signals an overwhelming preoccupation with public perception in the post-9/11 era. Two highly controversial issues, illegal immigration and national security, have thrust the Department of Homeland Security into the public eye as it labors to prevent another terrorist attack.
The bureaucratic behemoth grew out of a controversial consolidation five years ago this week of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Customs Service and Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Employees of both agencies joined either of two new agencies: Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known for their acronyms CBP and ICE.
CBP handles the border, airports and seaports, while ICE investigates immigration and customs law violators.
”We as an agency are constantly policing ourselves so that the public trust is not diminished as a result of inappropriate activity, whether it’s on the job, off the job, criminal or not criminal,” said Zachary Mann, a special agent and CBP spokesman in Miami.
Some ICE employees also have been caught up in episodes of alleged misconduct — though a senior local official said he was not aware of any increase in criminal or administrative actions.
”I haven’t noticed an uptick in misbehavior even though we have had a substantial increase in personnel since the merger,” said Anthony Mangione, the ICE Miami special agent in charge.
Administrative incidents are normally kept quiet by federal authorities. But officials cannot control publicity when misconduct escalates to serious criminal behavior, such as the February case involving the CBP officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Elizabeth Moran-Toala, a six-year veteran, allegedly accessed an electronic database known as TECS, or Treasury Enforcement Communications System, which serves as a tool to stop illegal drug imports.
According to an indictment, she is accused of tapping into the system several times to pass along information to a Delta Airlines baggage handler who was conspiring with a drug ring to transport cocaine and heroin on flights from the Dominican Republic to New York. Moran-Toala, 36, was transferred to New York in late February for prosecution.
Other recent South Florida cases — mirroring a pattern on the Border States — have involved officers and agents accepting illegal payoffs for migrant smuggling, drug trafficking, witness tampering, embezzlement and rape.
CBP and ICE managers say these cases simply reflect individual criminal behavior, not the culture of the married agencies.
But some longtime employees said administrative incidents, such as hostile confrontations or heavy drinking, may reflect the low morale and intense rivalries following the merger of federal agencies under Homeland Security.
Some employees from the old INS are the most vocal in their complaints. They bitterly denounce employees who came from the old Customs Service for ‘’seizing control” of both CBP and ICE, “lording it over” former INS employees and showing disdain toward immigration-related work.
Expected to improve efficiency, the merger has instead spawned tension. Both CBP and ICE scored near the bottom in a 2007 survey of employee satisfaction at 222 federal government agencies.
”It’s become a cultural clash, tensions between officers from the merged agencies,” said a Customs and Border Protection officer who asked not to be identified by name because he did not have authorization to speak publicly. “There’s low morale and tension. Some people drink, others take it out on their colleagues or supervisors. It’s no fun anymore.”
Mangione dismissed the notion that employee misbehavior is a result of post-merger friction.
”An employee smuggling aliens has nothing to do with the merger,” said Mangione. “It’s somebody being a criminal.”
Mangione, who came from Customs, noted that the second-in-command in the Miami ICE office — Gabriel Garcia — came from INS.
Although tension has generally not gone beyond arguments and insults, it may have been a factor behind a January brawl between two ICE employees at a Broward police association hall.
On Jan. 11, during a retirement party for a former INS officer, an ICE supervisor with a Customs background allegedly attacked an ICE agent with an INS background.
According to an internal document on the episode obtained by The Miami Herald, ICE group supervisor Mack Strong assaulted ICE senior special agent Francisco Meneses at the party held at the hall.
The altercation began when Strong used profanity to refer to another officer, also from INS, and Meneses asked Strong not to use such an expletive.
”Strong came at me again, grabbing me and throwing me down to the floor, where he continued to physically strike me with his fists,” Meneses wrote in a memo that went to Mangione.
Neither Meneses nor Strong wanted to speak on the record.
Mangione said the case is being investigated: “All I can say is that it was turned over to the Office of Professional Responsibility and there it lies.”
COMMENTS TO THE ABOVE STORY:
Sean T said,
The biggest integrity problem with CBP in Miami is with the Port Director Chris Maston. He has a history of having sex in public parks in Davie, Florida (over by the old land fill area off of I75), engaging in numerous extramarital affairs while at work (one being the Miami CBP press person Jennifer Connors), and meeting employees at hotels for having sex while on official time (he goes to a hotel close to his house in Davie by Sawgrass Mills Mall). Tom Winkowski knows all of this since Chris Maston was working for him at the Miami Field Office while he was involved in this improper and criminal conduct (having sex in a public place is illegal in the State of Florida – Lewd conduct violation). So when Tom Winkowski promotes a known sexual criminal into a senior leadership position.what is the message? Winkowski is managing by perception and empty words/memos. Winkowski talks about the importance of personal behavior of CBP employees but obviously it is all bullshit since he promotes Chris Maston who has been involved in criminal sexual behavior.
Chris Maston is a long time cheater who has had multiple extramarital affairs at his place of employment at Customs and Border Protection (CBP). A few years ago, Chris was involved in two concurrent (involved in two affairs at the same time) extramarital affairs with employees who worked in the Miami Field Office. Chris was the Assistant Director of Field Operations working in the South Florida Field Office during this time and one of the employees was married to another Department of Homeland Security employee. Currently, Chris Maston is the CBP Area Service Port Director in Miami. With one of the extramarital affairs, Chris would wine and dine the employee at a local bar, such as the Tobacco Road in Miami, and then take her to a public park in South Davie, Florida, where he would have sex with her in his red Toyota pick-up truck. The park is next to the old landfill area off of I-75. Having sex in a vehicle in a public park is a violation of Florida State law (Lewd and lascivious conduct) thus Chris engaged in criminal sexual conduct. When it got lighter outside during the spring, Chris would meet the employee at the Wesley Inn Hotel located in Sawgrass Mills Mall during and after work. Both the public park and the hotel are located close to his house in Davie, Florida. Chris seems to have a preference for employees with names that begin with “J” such as Jill or Jennifer. Also, Chris is married and has two children. His wife is aware of the affairs but seems to tolerate them. All the information in this narrative is accurate and factual. The purpose of this post is to 1) advise of a senior manager working in the federal government who has engaged in criminal sexual conduct, and 2) warn CBP employees, and their spouses, of Chris’ past conduct so they can protect themselves from any possible sexual advances or harassment by Chris. Defamation, vilification, slander, or libel is the communication of false claims expressly or implied to be factual which in turn may harm the reputation of an individual. If Chris Maston or his wife believes this narrative contains false claims, they may pursue criminal or civil legal action against the author. The author is not responsible for comments posted on this narrative.
Re: OSC File No. DI-00-2079, please go to: http://www.osc.gov/FY2003/Scanned/DI-00-2079/LettertoPresident.pdf
Exhibit No. 9
Custom Fit - U.S. customs worker declares boss assaulted her
Amy Silverman - Phoenix New Times - March 29, 2001
Arizona's highest-ranking U.S. Customs Service official is on leave, pending the outcome of an internal investigation into allegations she assaulted a customs employee.
Awilda Villafane, who has been the special agent in charge of Arizona's customs office since 1994, is accused of confronting Sharon Sue Penrod, who does budgeting for the office. The state's customs headquarters is located in Tucson.
Arizona is one of U.S. customs' busiest locations, processing thousands of pedestrians, private vehicles and commercial trucks each day at six ports of entry. Last year, Arizona officials seized a record 179,882 pounds of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
According to Penrod's account in a Pima County sheriff's report, Villafane entered Penrod's office one day last month and began yelling obscenities at her, then grabbed her above the elbows and continued screaming.
At issue, according to Penrod, was a purchase Villafane had ordered Penrod to make. The nature of the purchase is not disclosed in the report, but Penrod told authorities she had been questioned about the purchase by customs officials shortly before Villafane entered her office.
From the report: "The suspect started asking Sharon things like `Don't you remember how you told me that it would be a good purchase.' Sharon stated that she said no, that she had not told her that it would be a good purchase, she simply told her the procedure needed for the purchase; although, Sharon stated that she did tell her that it would not be a wise purchase at all. Sharon stated that the suspect became very irate and she stated 'I am still the fucking [special agent in charge].'"
The report continues: "Sharon said that after the suspect realized what she had done, she let go of her arms, and she said that the look in her eyes kind of changed, where she could tell that she had realized that she had done something wrong. She then told Sharon that Sharon was too upset to stay at work and she should leave.
Sharon felt extremely intimidated, and felt that the suspect was trying to intimidate her. Also, she felt as though she was not free to leave her office. She said that she felt that she was being unlawfully held there by the suspect who was also in her office."
The sheriff's department also interviewed at least two employees who heard the exchange. They told authorities they heard voices raised, but did not hear specifics of the argument or see what happened.
Penrod asked sheriff's authorities to note in the report that Villafane is a close friend of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
The Pima County Attorney's Office declined prosecution, stating that while both parties indicated that touching took place in the incident, it was not clear that it qualified as assault. "Due to the dynamics of the underlying dispute, this is a situation best dealt with by the agency employing the parties. Therefore, this office will not bring any criminal charges in the matter," Rick Unklesbay, chief criminal deputy to the Pima County Attorney, wrote.
The sheriff's report mentions an ongoing internal investigation into the matter by customs, although customs spokesman Dennis Murphy refused to confirm the investigation. He only said that Villafane is on leave and an official from Washington, D.C., is filling in for her. It's unclear whether the internal investigation includes questioning about purchases authorized by Villafane, as Penrod suggested to sheriff authorities. Penrod declined an interview request. So did Villafane, through her attorney, Michael Piccaretta. He described his client as a seasoned veteran with U.S. customs who worked her way up through the ranks over 18 years.
"The criminal accusation was, in simple terms, bullshit, and it was quickly determined that it didn't merit any serious consideration," Piccaretta says. "I suspect that any internal investigation will conclude the same."
He says that Villafane "tried to comfort a woman who was apparently having a psychotic breakdown."
His client is on paid leave, and is taking a "much-needed vacation," Piccaretta says, adding he believes Villafane has been singled out for ridicule because she is a woman in a male-dominated field.
"She's a strong woman in a male-dominated field and she's also one of the most high-ranking Hispanic women in law enforcement, and that sometimes breeds a lot of feelings," Piccaretta says. "In any position of authority, there always are those who are trying to cause you harm, and I think especially so when you have a woman in charge, and I think she's been the victim of unsubstantiated and unfair comments."
And as for Penrod's concerns about Villafane's acquaintance with Sheriff Dupnik?
"The sheriff had nothing to do with this. . . . When you're in a high position, you know a lot of people," Piccaretta says. "A crappy case is a crappy case is a crappy case."
Exhibit No. 10
One of the major problems this writer found during his review, assessment, and evaluation of the current DHS administration of President Barack Obama is that integrity plays a very insignificant role on the policies being formulated and issued by DHS and its subordinate agencies. Furthermore, the people appointed to be in charge of such programs lack the experience that the job requires. The following is an example:
Jan Lane, Chief, Office of Security and Integrity of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)
Jan Lane began serving as Chief, Office of Security and Integrity, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, on March 12, 2007. In this role, she also serves as the USCIS Chief Security Officer. OSI was created in March 2007 to enhance existing functions that focus on management integrity, individual integrity, and securing USCIS employees and facilities. OSI operates USCIS’ Command Center and is responsible for measures designed to safeguard USCIS information, personnel, equipment, facilities, and assets. OSI also conducts background investigations and suitability screenings, grants security clearances for USCIS employees and contractors, and investigates allegations of employee misconduct related to waste, corruption, fraud, or mismanagement. Further, OSI’s internal and external review functions proactively promote self-inspections and program compliance and provide audit liaison support to all USCIS programs, including those conducted by the Government Accountability Office and DHS’ Office of the Inspector General, to help ensure the integrity and effectiveness of USCIS programs.
Previously, Ms. Lane served as the Director of the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center, located in Arlington, Virginia, beginning in September 2000. The Funds Center is responsible for administering all aspects of the liability and compensation provisions of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 including the management of the $2.7 billion Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The Funds Center provides money for pollution response and damage compensation and also certifies the financial responsibility of vessels operating in U.S. waters. Before her appointment to the Director position, Ms. Lane served as NPFC’s Deputy Director, where she was responsible for overseeing all aspects of managing the Funds Center, including strategic planning, policy coordination and outreach, information technology, human resources, and financial management.
Prior to this assignment, Ms. Lane was Director of the Program Development Division, in the Office of Emergency Planning and Operations, at the U.S. Department of Energy. In this role, she had responsibility for the development of DOE contingency plans in response to all types of energy emergencies, resulting from natural disasters, radiological emergencies, and other major oil disruptions. She represented DOE in a number of high-level fora including the National Response Team, the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research, and the Department of the Interior’s Outer Continental Shelf Policy Committee and Interagency Advisory Group. Additionally, she served as a senior advisor to DOE on the Department of Transportation’s Working Group on Commercial Maritime Policy, the General Assembly of the International Maritime Organization, and DOE bilateral energy consultations with Indonesia and Australia. Her federal career includes several other leadership roles at the Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ms. Lane is a graduate of Virginia Tech, where she received B.S. degrees in Finance and Management, and is a graduate of the George Washington University, where she received a Masters in Business Administration.
Note: The reason I mention the name of Jan Lane is to illustrate my point. It is not a reflection of any wrong doings by Ms. Lane. Her biography is posted in the Internet by her employer.
Miguel A. Contreras