INTERPOL coordinates the exchange of information to assist law enforcement agencies in the United States and throughout the world in detecting and deterring international crime and terrorism through a network of 187 member countries. Each INTERPOL member country establishes a National Central Bureau to serve as its liaison between the member country’s law enforcement agencies and INTERPOL. The U.S. National Central Bureau (USNCB) serves as a point-of-contact for U.S. federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to share information internationally.
A review conducted by the OIG’s Audit Division identified several weaknesses in the USNCB’s operations, including that the USNCB has not made critical international criminal information available to law enforcement agencies in the United States. We also found that the USNCB has not implemented adequate controls or processes to ensure that the INTERPOL information it makes available to U.S. law enforcement agencies is current, accurate, complete, and timely.
INTERPOL shares crime-related information with its members through a system of international bulletins color-coded to indicate the type of information being shared. The USNCB in turn should share this crime-related information with its law enforcement partners. However, our audit found that 45 (87 percent) of 52 foreign-issued bulletins we reviewed were not made available to frontline U.S. law enforcement officers, such as border patrol officers, visa application reviewers, or local police officers. In addition, the audit disclosed errors and inconsistencies in the information provided by the USNCB to U.S. law enforcement agencies. Consequently, their law enforcement data systems likely contain out-of-date or incomplete data and include information on individuals for whom no law enforcement agency has a current investigative interest.
Further, although the United States was the source of the highest number of wanted person bulletins among INTERPOL member countries (referred to as “red notices”), our audit noted that there were no INTERPOL red notices requested or issued for 14 of 32 international “most-wanted” fugitives listed on the public web sites of the FBI, DEA, and DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Consequently, some U.S. federal law enforcement agencies are not adequately utilizing INTERPOL and the USNCB, which reduces the likelihood that U.S. fugitives will be captured.
We also found that the USNCB is not able to consistently coordinate the sharing of case-related information because it is often not informed of actions taken by its U.S. law enforcement partners on INTERPOL-related cases. In addition, the USNCB has faced challenges in maintaining reliable communications with its 66 state and local liaisons throughout the United States. Although the USNCB stated that it had established secure electronic communications, we found several of these connections were not functional, and the USNCB did not have a reliable and complete network of connectivity with these liaisons.
The audit also found weaknesses in the USNCB’s internal case management system. Our review of 216 cases revealed duplicate entries, missing data, and improper classification; disorganized and inconsistently assembled case files; and poor records retention and disposal. Finally, we identified weaknesses in the oversight, supervision, and leadership structure of the USNCB. We found that the USNCB Executive Committee, which is composed of senior Department and DHS officials and is supposed to provide guidance to the USNCB, has not met in more than 5 years.
The OIG made 4 recommendations to the Department and 23 recommendations to the USNCB to maximize the sharing of INTERPOL information among U.S. law enforcement agencies and to assist the USNCB in improving its operations. The Department and USNCB agreed with the recommendations and said they have begun taking actions to address them.
Reversing a trend of decreased COPS’ funding, the Recovery Act provided COPS with more than $1 billion for state, local, and tribal law enforcement to hire, rehire, or retain career law enforcement officers. COPS subsequently created the COPS Hiring Recovery Program as a competitive grant program.
When the Recovery Act was enacted, the OIG redirected its oversight efforts by ending an ongoing performance audit of COPS’ grant-making processes and issuing a technical advice report to help COPS with its handling of grant Recovery Act funds. For example, the OIG report recommended that COPS require high-risk grantees to demonstrate their understanding of key grant-related responsibilities.
The OIG also recommended that COPS improve its training programs for grantees and its information-sharing with OJP and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).
During this reporting period, the OIG audited various grantees who received awards from COPS. The purpose of our audits was to determine whether the costs reimbursed under the grants were allowable, supported, and in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grant. The following is an example of findings from OIG audits issued during this reporting period:
- The Daniel Webster Council (DWC) – Boy Scouts of America, a subsidiary of the National Boy Scouts of America in Manchester, New Hampshire, received grants totaling more than $1.2 million from the COPS’ Safe Schools Initiative to assist at-risk youth in New Hampshire through in-school counseling and outdoors activities. The OIG determined that the DWC was in material non-compliance with the grant requirements we tested. Specifically, we questioned $882,737 in unsupported expenditures and $101,189 in unallowable expenditures. We also found that DWC had commingled COPS grant-funded expenditures with expenditures from other sources, and we identified weaknesses in grant reporting, including late financial status reports. COPS concurred with our recommendations and indicated that additional coordination was required to remedy the $983,926 in questioned costs.
The OIG’s Audit Division examined the Civil Division’s Laptop Encryption Program and Practices. We found that the Civil Division has complied with Department requirements by ensuring that its own laptop computers are encrypted to protect Department data. However, we found that for laptop computers owned by Civil Division contractors, subcontractors, and vendors, the Civil Division’s efforts to ensure contractor safeguards over Department data needs significant improvement.
Specifically, we found that an inventory of non-Civil Division laptop computers was not maintained, a large percentage of contractor laptops used to process Department data was not encrypted, and contractors had not received notification of Department laptop encryption requirements. We made seven recommendations to the Civil Division to enhance its safeguards over Department data on laptop computers, and the Civil Division concurred with our recommendations.
The following is an example of a case concerning a Civil Division employee that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- A joint investigation by the OIG’s Washington Field Office and the DEA led to the arrest of a Civil Division legal secretary assigned to the Commercial Litigation Section on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The USAO for the District of Maryland also is seeking the forfeiture of $250,000 in alleged proceeds of the conspiracy. Judicial proceedings continue.
Under the Department’s Asset Forfeiture Program, state and local law enforcement agencies receive equitable sharing assets when participating directly with the Department’s law enforcement components in joint investigations that lead to the seizure or forfeiture of cash and property. To be eligible for equitable sharing proceeds, law enforcement agencies must submit a request within 60 days of an asset seizure.
During this reporting period, the OIG’s Audit Division reviewed the following law enforcement agencies’ use of equitable sharing revenues:
- The Newport News, Virginia, Police Department was awarded $132,323 in equitable sharing funds in FYs 2007 and 2008 to support its law enforcement operations. Our audit found that the Police Department submitted the required federal sharing agreement and certification report on time, adequately accounted for receipts, and used asset forfeiture monies appropriately. However, the Police Department commingled equitable sharing funds with other federal and state forfeit revenues, which led to inaccurate reporting on certification forms. In addition, the Police Department failed to inventory all property purchased with equitable sharing funds and could not locate two laptop computers with a total value of $3,674. The Criminal Division concurred with our findings.
- The Salem, Virginia, Police Department spent more than $78,000 in equitable sharing funds in FY 2008 primarily to enhance law enforcement capabilities. We found weaknesses with the Police Department’s financial reporting and reconciling practices for funds received through the asset forfeiture funds program. We also identified $550 in expenditures that did not comply with program guidelines. The Criminal Division concurred with our findings, and the Police Department transferred $550 back into the asset forfeiture account.
The following is an example of a case concerning the use of equitable sharing funds that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- In our September 2008 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on a joint investigation by the OIG’s Dallas Field Office and the Texas Rangers that led to the arrest of the chief of police in Troy, Texas, on state theft charges. According to the investigation, the police department received almost $43,000 in equitable sharing funds derived from a $537,030 DEA drug investigation currency seizure. The police chief misused approximately $12,000 of these funds to purchase items for personal use, including a motorcycle for his wife, an insurance policy, five cellular telephones, MP3 players, an embroidery machine, and a family vacation. The police chief subsequently was fired by the City of Troy for these unauthorized expenditures. During this reporting period, the police chief pled guilty to theft of equitable sharing funds and was sentenced to 24 months’ probation and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service, surrender his Texas peace officer license, and pay $4,778 in restitution to the City of Troy.
The Criminal Division’s Laptop Encryption Program
An ongoing OIG audit is determining whether the Criminal Division complies with Department policy regarding the use of encryption on laptops processing sensitive and classified information and with procedures for laptop encryption for contractors and subcontractors.
OVW’s Grant to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders seeks to encourage state and local governments to treat domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking as serious violations of criminal law requiring the coordinated involvement of the entire criminal justice system.
During this reporting period, the OIG conducted an audit of an OVW grant to Skagit County, Washington. As of August 31, 2008, the OVW grant awarded Skagit County more than $1.4 million to implement a coordinated community response to domestic violence and expand its efforts to strengthen enforcement of domestic violence laws and advocacy for victims of domestic violence. We found that Skagit County generally complied with essential grant requirements. However, we identified $21,706 in charges against the grant that were either unsupported by appropriate documentation or were not allowed under OVW grant requirements. OVW agreed with our recommendations and will coordinate with Skagit County to remedy the questioned costs.
The following is an example of a case that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- An investigation by the OIG’s New Jersey Area Office resulted in the arrest and guilty plea of an office automation clerk assigned to the USAO in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on charges of fraud and identity theft. OIG investigators found that the clerk fraudulently used personally identifiable information from individuals prosecuted by USAO to obtain 188 online payday loans in their names totaling more than $34,000. Judicial proceedings continue.