Semiannual Report to Congress

April 1, 2005-September 30, 2005
Office of the Inspector General

Drug Enforcement Administration

DEA logo

The DEA enforces federal laws and regulations related to the growth, production, or distribution of controlled substances. In addition, the DEA seeks to reduce the supply of and demand for illicit drugs, both domestically and internationally. The DEA has approximately 10,900 employees staffing its 23 division offices in the United States and the Caribbean and 80 offices in 58 other countries.

Reports Issued

The DEA's Payments to Confidential Sources

Confidential sources are an important tool used by the DEA to help initiate investigations and provide information or services to facilitate arrests and seizures of drugs and cash. The OIG's Audit Division audited the DEA's controls over confidential source payments and its compliance with regulations concerning confidential sources. The OIG review found various areas where the DEA can improves its management of confidential informants and its compliance with relevant Attorney General Guidelines.

In May 2002 the Attorney General issued revised Guidelines Regarding the Use of Confidential Informants. The guidelines outline requirements that the DEA must fulfill before activating a confidential source. For example, case agents for confidential sources must complete and sign a written Initial Suitability Report and Recommendation (ISRR) that addresses specific risk factors or indicate on the report that a particular factor is not applicable. In addition, once a confidential source has been established, the guidelines require the case agent to review, at least annually, the confidential source's file and complete and sign a written Continuing Suitability Report and Recommendation (CSRR) that must be forwarded to a field manager for written approval. The purpose of the CSRR is to determine whether the risk of using a source has changed since the initial evaluation and whether the confidential source should continue to be utilized. The guidelines also require the DEA to establish accounting and reconciliation procedures that reflect all monies paid to confidential sources.

Our audit found that both ISRRs and CSRRs were not adequately documented. For example, the OIG found that most written DEA initial suitability assessments did not address specific risk assessment factors, and therefore did not meet guidelines requirements that suitability statements detail the specific benefits of utilizing a confidential source despite the identified risk factors. The majority of suitability statements we reviewed contained general statements indicating, in essence, that the benefits of using the confidential source outweighed the risks - without specifying either the benefits or the risks. We also found instances where multiple DEA offices categorized the same source differently and improperly categorized other sources. In addition, we concluded that the DEA does not have an effective system that accounts for and reconciles all confidential source payments. Instead, the DEA relies on a manual process to ascertain payment information to confidential sources - a time-consuming process that is prone to error.

The OIG report provided 12 recommendations to help the DEA improve its management of confidential sources. These recommendations include requiring comprehensive written ISRRs and CSRRs that address all of the factors specified in the guidelines; requiring the long-term confidential source review committee to either review the confidential source files for all long-term confidential sources or review the written ISRRs and CSRRs and document their findings; enhancing the existing DEA database system to track confidential source impeachment information; and accounting for all payments made to a confidential source by the DEA, not just payments using DEA-appropriated funds. The DEA concurred with most of the recommendations.


During this reporting period, the OIG received 168 complaints involving the DEA. The most common allegations made against DEA employees included job performance failure, misuse of a credit card, theft, misuse of government property, and false statements. The OIG opened 9 investigations and referred 155 allegations to the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 28 open cases of alleged misconduct against DEA employees. The most common allegation was theft. The following are examples of cases involving the DEA that the OIG's Investigations Division investigated during this reporting period:

  • The OIG's Dallas Field Office and the DEA OPR conducted a joint investigation into allegations by a civilian defendant in a DEA methamphetamine investigation that DEA special agents used excessive force during his arrest, violating his civil rights. During the investigation, the OIG interviewed the defendant, all DEA special agents present during the arrest, and personnel who provided the defendant's medical treatment. Medical personnel stated that the defendant attributed his facial injuries to falling down when he attempted to flee from law enforcement. Attending medical personnel said they did not find any evidence indicating that the defendant was abused. The investigation concluded that no excessive force was used during the defendant's arrest, and the interview statements did not support the defendant's allegation that he was struck or hit. The DEA personnel involved in the defendant's arrest were cleared of any wrongdoing.

  • The OIG investigated allegations that a former DEA resident agent in charge (RAC) was receiving kickbacks from confidential source payments related to a foreign-undercover operation. Although the OIG investigation was unable to corroborate the allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of the RAC or any current or former DEA employee involved in the operation, it did find that the RAC and the agents under his supervision did not follow established DEA procedures for the establishment and proper use of a DEA confidential source. In addition, the RAC and his supervisor did not exercise adequate management and control over the expenditure of $181,500 in DEA funds in the operation. The OIG has completed its report and provided its report to DEA for appropriate action.

  • An investigation by the OIG's Dallas Field Office led to the arrest and guilty plea of a DEA evidence technician assigned to the Laredo District Office in Laredo, Texas, on charges of theft. An indictment returned in the Southern District of Texas alleged that the evidence technician removed jewelry and cellular telephones from the non-drug evidence room and sold the items in return for monetary compensation. Following an OIG polygraph, the evidence technician admitted to stealing evidence valued in excess of $2,000 from the non-drug evidence room. The investigators also developed evidence that he was a regular player in high-stakes poker games in which known Laredo crime figures participated. Judicial proceedings continue.

  • In our March 2004 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on a case in which a former DEA associate special agent in charge (ASAC) of the DEA's New York Division was arrested in the Southern District of New York on charges of embezzlement, false claims, aiding and abetting, mail and wire fraud, and theft of honest services. A joint investigation by the OIG's New York Field Office and the DEA OPR led to a 214-count indictment alleging that the ASAC embezzled $138,000 from the DEA and misused DEA resources to perform work for a private investigations firm he owned and operated. During this reporting period, the ASAC was sentenced pursuant to his guilty plea to 30 months' incarceration followed by 36 months' supervised release, and he was ordered to pay full restitution in the amount of $154,959.

Ongoing Work

The DEA's Control of the Diversion of Controlled Pharmaceuticals

The OIG is conducting a follow-up review of the DEA's enforcement of laws that prohibit the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals. Our September 2002 report on this subject included recommendations that the DEA increase investigative resources devoted to the diversion problem, clarify the law enforcement authorities of diversion investigators, ensure adequate training for special agents in diversion, and explore additional intelligence capabilities to support diversion control. This follow-up review will assess the DEA's response to the recommendations as well as the DEA's response to emerging diversion threats, such as illegal Internet pharmacies.

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