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 86 offices in 62 other countries.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 163 complaints involving the DEA. The most common allegations made against DEA employees included job performance failure, release of information, and misuse of a credit card. The OIG opened 10 investigations and referred 147 allegations to the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility for investigation.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 27 open cases of alleged misconduct against DEA employees. The most common allegations were fraud and theft. The following are examples of cases involving the DEA that the OIG’s Investigations Division investigated during this reporting period:
An investigation by the OIG’s Miami Field Office led to the arrest of a DEA special agent on charges of converting property of another, embezzlement of public funds, and money laundering. An indictment returned in the Northern District of Georgia alleged that the special agent, who served as a team leader and evidence custodian at the DEA’s Atlanta Airport Task Force from early 2003 to January 2005, embezzled cash seized from money couriers for drug organizations by instructing local police officers to turn over seized money to him without counting it. The special agent allegedly stole more than $200,000, and used a portion of the embezzled money to build a custom home in Orlando, Florida. Judicial proceedings continue.
An investigation by the OIG’s New York Field Office led to the criminal convictions of a DEA contractor and one of its employees on charges of bid rigging. The investigation determined that the employee and his employer submitted three bids – the company’s bid of $18,500 and two forged bids in the amounts of $25,800 and $24,000 – to perform electrical work for the DEA. By offering the lowest bid, the company was awarded the contract. With the assistance of the OIG’s Fraud Detection Office, the contracting company was debarred from all government contracts until August 2006, while the employee was debarred until August 2008.
An investigation by the OIG’s Miami Field Office led to the arrest and guilty plea of a DEA supervisory special agent (SSA) on charges of making false entries and reports of monies. Between May 1997 and November 2002, the SSA was responsible for enlisting the assistance of local law enforcement officers to support the mission of the DEA’s Caribbean Field Office and for the distribution and funding of monies to local law enforcement officers. OIG investigators developed evidence that the SSA forged the names of local law enforcement officers and subordinate DEA personnel on cash receipt forms to fraudulently claim reimbursement for approximately $10,000. He was sentenced to 4 years’ probation and 6 months’ home confinement, and was ordered to pay $10,001 in restitution.
A joint investigation by the OIG’s Miami Field Office and the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility led to the arrest of a DEA special agent in the Southern District of Florida on charges of theft of government funds and making false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims. OIG investigators obtained evidence that the special agent, who previously was assigned to the Miami Field Division, submitted numerous false expense vouchers to the DEA for various career fairs from October 2003 to March 2004 that he did not attend. Based on the special agent’s false reimbursement claims, the DEA paid him $13,405 for expenses that he was not entitled to receive. Judicial proceedings continue.
An investigation by the OIG’s Miami Field Office led to the guilty plea of a DEA imprest fund custodian, previously assigned to the Nassau, Bahamas, Country Office, to charges of theft of government funds. The OIG developed evidence that the imprest fund custodian stole $1,836 from the imprest fund and used it to pay a personal debt. Pursuant to her guilty plea agreement, the custodian paid $1,836 in restitution, was sentenced to 2 years’ probation, and fined $1,000.
The DEA’s Drug Diversion Program
The OIG is conducting a follow-up review of the DEA’s efforts to reduce the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals. This review will assess the DEA’s response to the recommendations made in our October 2002 review as well as the DEA’s response to emerging diversion threats, such as illicit Internet pharmacies.
DEA Cash Seizures
In carrying out its mission as the agency responsible for enforcing the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States, the DEA seizes cash assets that can be traceable to, or intended to be used for, illicit drug trafficking. The OIG is assessing whether the DEA complies with requirements that govern the handling of cash from seizure through distribution.
The DEA’s International Operations
Cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies is essential to the DEA’s mission. To support international investigations, the DEA operates 86 offices in 62 foreign countries and assists its foreign counterparts through such activities as bilateral investigations, international forums, and training foreign law enforcement at its facilities in Quantico, Virginia, as well as in the host countries. The OIG is reviewing the staffing and funding of DEA foreign operations and activities, assessing management controls over DEA international enforcement activities and offices, evaluating the exchange of information with foreign governments and the security over the information shared, and examining the outcomes and accomplishments of DEA foreign operations.