|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 10,800 employees staffing its 21 division offices in the United States and the Caribbean and 87 offices in 63 other countries.|
The OIG’s Audit Division examined the DEA’s handling of cash seizures made during the 16-month period ending November 2008. We found that the DEA has made progress since our 2007 audit in safeguarding seized cash from loss or theft, but further improvements are still needed.
During our audit of 29 DEA offices, we found that the DEA has improved in following 8 of 10 cash-handling controls. However, the DEA took slightly longer to transport seized cash to banks for an official count because it experienced problems implementing a Department of Treasury program designed to streamline cash deposits by federal agencies. We concluded that DEA staff needed to improve preparing and reviewing records and other legal documents related to the seized cash.
We also found that DEA law enforcement officers did not prepare or review some of those documents until after an average of 9 months had elapsed. For 682 cash seizures we tested, DEA staff prepared 131 amended Reports of Investigation and other memoranda an average of more than 276 days after the date of seizure. Not conducting complete and timely reviews of the cash-seizure files can lead to errors in the cash-seizure documentation, which can make it difficult for prosecutors to successfully try cases.
The OIG concluded that the DEA needs to define how quickly supervisors should review cash seizure records and provide its staff with additional training on handling seized cash, preparing and reviewing cash seizure documents, and maintaining copies of records in the investigative case files.
We made five recommendations to the DEA to help improve its handling of seized cash. The DEA agreed with our recommendations.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 261 complaints involving the DEA. The most common allegations made against DEA employees included job performance failure; theft or loss of seized property, money, or drugs; waste; and mismanagement. The OIG opened 11 investigations. The majority of the complaints were considered management issues and were provided to the DEA for its review and appropriate action.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 22 open cases of alleged misconduct against DEA employees. The most common allegations were release of information, false statements, and job performance failure. The following are examples of cases involving the DEA that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- An investigation by the OIG’s Chicago Field Office led to the indictment and arrest in the Northern District of Ohio of a DEA Special Agent on charges of obstruction of justice, false statements, perjury, and violating individuals’ civil rights. A Richland County, Ohio, Sheriff’s detective also was arrested and pled guilty to depriving an individual’s civil rights. According to the indictment, the DEA Special Agent intentionally provided false statements and suppressed evidence against 17 individuals during the course of 13 controlled drug buys, and the detective provided false testimony against one of those individuals. The DEA Special Agent allegedly placed false statements in his reports, suppressed evidence favorable to suspects from prosecutors and the courts, and perjured himself before the District Court at a detention hearing and the two trials that ensued from the investigation. Twelve of the 17 individuals were collectively sentenced to 70 years in prison before their convictions were dismissed or overturned, and one individual served 16 months of a 10-year sentence before being exonerated. The detective admitted to providing false testimony at the narcotics trial of 1 of the 17 individuals. Judicial proceedings continue against the DEA Special Agent. Sentencing is pending for the detective.
- A joint investigation by the OIG’s Chicago Field Office, the Independent Police Review Authority of the City of Chicago, and DEA OPR resulted in the arrest of a Chicago police officer, previously assigned to a DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, on charges of violation of civil rights under color of law. According to the indictment, the police officer used unreasonable force by striking and causing bodily injury to a civilian who had been placed under arrest. Judicial proceedings continue.
- In our March 2009 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on a joint investigation by the OIG’s Dallas Field Office and the DEA OPR that led to the arrest of a DEA Special Agent on charges of bribery, accepting gratuities, and aiding and abetting false statements on visa applications. The investigation revealed that the DEA Special Agent fraudulently obtained visas for Mexican nationals so they could legally enter the United States. The investigation also revealed that the Special Agent falsified several visa referrals in return for $2,500 and a diamond ring valued at $1,000. During this reporting period, the DEA Special Agent pled guilty and was sentenced to 1 year and a day incarceration on charges of false statements on a visa application.
The OIG is assessing the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center and the intelligence support it provides to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The review includes an assessment of the range of the Intelligence Center’s products and services and their value to the agencies that use them.
The DEA’s Clandestine Drug Laboratory Cleanup Program
The OIG is evaluating the effectiveness of the DEA’s Clandestine Laboratory Cleanup Program.