Controls Over Accountable Property at the Baltimore Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Report Number 04-37
September 2004
Office of the Inspector General


Introduction

On July 7, 2003, Robert E. Stull, a former employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the Baltimore Field Division (BFD) was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay restitution after pleading guilty to theft of government property.4 As a result of a joint investigation conducted by the Office of the Inspector General, the BFD, and the Maryland United States Attorney's Office, Stull admitted to stealing photography equipment, valued at over $167,000, from the FBI between February 1999 and November 2002, and to selling the items on the online auction house eBay. In his confession, Stull acknowledged stealing and then selling items such as cameras, flash units, lenses, and film. In response to these events, the Office of the Inspector General initiated an audit to assess the overall effectiveness of the BFD's property controls from procurement through disposal.

The BFD is one of 56 FBI field divisions and is located in Baltimore, Maryland. The BFD's area of coverage extends across Maryland and Delaware. It maintains subsidiary offices, called resident agencies, in smaller cities throughout both states. Among its law enforcement priorities, the BFD cites counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber crime. As with most field divisions, the BFD is overseen by a Special Agent in Charge. For fiscal year (FY) 2004, the BFD has a total budget of about $3.3 million and currently employs approximately 400 people. As of January 3, 2004, the BFD's official property inventory contained 5,620 items, with a total estimated acquisition cost of $22,835,160.

Background

Stull began his career at the BFD in November 1990 as a Grade 4 Clerk. In January 1993, he became the BFD's Relief Photographer and in April 1994, he was promoted to Photographer. At the time of his arrest, Stull was the BFD's primary photographer. He had reached the Grade 8, Step 5 level, and he was responsible for taking pictures and processing film. Furthermore, as property custodian for photography equipment, Stull was responsible for requisitioning and maintaining the BFD's photography equipment and supplies.

In October 2002, another BFD employee reported to BFD management that Stull was selling items with the FBI logo on eBay, and the other BFD employee provided management with the name of the eBay account. Among the items listed for sale were: a BFD patch, an FBI September 11th patch, and Kodak and Polaroid film. Based on this discovery, an investigation was initiated and a grand jury subpoena was issued for eBay's records. The eBay records revealed that since 1999, Stull had opened at least four accounts on eBay through which the majority of items sold had been photography equipment and supplies, including cameras, lenses, flash units, light meters, video recorders, film, photographic paper, and ink cartridges. In addition, the eBay records reported the time periods the accounts were open and the level of sales Stull reached for each account, as follows:

Account Name Time Period Open Sales
Residu February 27, 1999 - July 6, 1999 $ 10,211.41
ambo209 April 30, 2000 - October 24, 2000 12,950.00
RoberikaMay 15, 2001 - August 8, 200129,203.00
freefallo1October 8, 2001 - November 2, 200130,947.00
Total$ 83,311.41
    Source: Office of the Inspector General

A comparison was performed of the items sold on eBay to the FBI Requisition for Supplies and/or Equipment (FD-369) forms prepared by Stull. From this analysis, a pattern was recognized as present since 1999 where the items he requested through FD-369 forms were sold on eBay within approximately two months. For example, in May 2001 Stull requested 36 Nikon flash units from FBI Headquarters. In June 2001, he sold one "Nikon SB-28 flash (NEW IN THE BOX)," and 16 more by August 2001. Several purchasers of the various items sold on eBay were contacted by the investigators. Some of those purchasers still possessed the items and were able to provide information, such as serial numbers, which identified the items as FBI property.

Based on these findings, Stull was arrested for theft of government property on December 13, 2002. When presented with the evidence, Stull acknowledged establishing each of the eBay accounts and admitted that he had stolen all of the photography equipment and supplies sold on the accounts from the BFD. To explain his crimes, Stull stated that he had been experiencing financial problems for the previous three years, and began selling items on eBay in 1999 to offset his debts. He noted that the first items he sold on eBay were his own personal items, but as his debts increased he began stealing items from the BFD to sell as well. Stull stated that the Financial Manager did question him about the amount of money he was spending, particularly on film, and that the Administrative Officer questioned him when many photography items could not be located during the 2001 inventory. Stull stated that he responded to the Financial Manager's questions by telling her that the agents were using all of the film and the Administrative Officer stopped questioning him when the inventory period was over. Stull also stated that, for him, stealing from the federal government was "easy" due to the "lack of checks and balances" in the property control process.

As part of the case, the investigators prepared a list of the items stolen by Stull. This list contained a total of 168 entries, although some entries represented more than one item. We analyzed the list to determine the types of property stolen by Stull and found that the largest percentages of items were cameras, camera flashes, and photographic accessories. The complete results follow:

Items Stolen by Stull by Type
Description Number Stolen Percent
Cameras or Camera Kits 49 29.17
Camera Lenses 13 7.74
Camera Flashes 25 14.88
Light Meters 14 8.33
Photo Enlargers 1 0.60
Film 4 2.38
Printer Cartridges 1 0.60
Film Holders 17 10.12
Photographic Accessories 33 19.64
Still Video Players 3 1.79
Cassette Recorders 2 1.19
Videocassette Recorders 3 1.79
Ballistic Vests 3 1.79
Total Number of Entries 168 100.00
    Source: FBI

Stull pled guilty to theft of government property on July 7, 2003. He was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, and three years probation, and was ordered to pay $70,000 in restitution.

Baltimore Field Division Property Management Procedures

The Justice Property Management Regulations and the FBI's Accountable Property Manual are the bases for many of the property procedures at the BFD.5 The Accountable Property Manual defines accountable property as "[p]roperty which, because of its value or nature, must be accounted for on an individual basis [in] the [Property Management Application]". The Property Management Application is an automated property system that allows the FBI to track the location and history of specific items.6 The system has features that allow tracking of distributed or assigned property, and FBI policy requires that laptop computers and firearms be charged out to specific individuals. Some of the property custodians use property passes for additional categories of property as they see fit. When the Property Management Application was launched in 1992, the FBI instituted a threshold of $50, meaning that property with an acquisition cost of $50 or more was to be included in the Property Management Application. Today, this threshold stands at $1,000; however, certain items of property are to be included in the Property Management Application regardless of their cost. Specifically, according to FBI policy, all firearms, jewelry, laptops, central processing units, and secured communication equipment should be included in the system.7

At the BFD, four supply technicians handle the addition of property records to the Property Management Application. Their responsibilities include creating and maintaining inventory records, providing for the care and security of property, and identifying property as excess.

In addition, the BFD has designated nine property custodians as responsible for certain categories of personal property. Their responsibilities include securing physical custody of the property, providing information about the property to the supply technicians, and maintaining property documentation. The property responsibilities of the property custodians are collateral to their official duties; for example, the property custodian for firearms is the firearm instructor at the BFD. The roles of other BFD employees in the property management process are described in Appendix II. The property custodians maintain control over the following nine property areas: 1) automobiles, 2) computer equipment, 3) ET (telecommunication and FM radio equipment),8 4) firearms, 5) laboratory equipment, 6) office equipment and fixtures, 7) photography equipment, 8) technical equipment, and 9) word processing equipment. The FBI gave division heads the option of establishing policy to track property valued at less than $1,000. While we did not find that the BFD had established such a policy, we did find that four of the nine property custodians were tracking property under their control valued at less than $1,000.

Audit Approach

To determine the effectiveness of the BFD's controls over accountable property, we reviewed the FBI and BFD policies and procedures for compliance with the Justice Property Management Regulations and for adequate segregation of duties.9 We also conducted testing at the BFD in the following areas to determine if procedures had been implemented:

  • Procurement;
  • Location testing and completeness of property records;
  • Frequency and results of physical inventories; and
  • Disposal.

At the time of our audit, the BFD planned to relocate to a different facility. Therefore, we observed but did not test physical security controls. In addition, we determined that FBI Headquarters, not the BFD, is responsible for ensuring that the disposals of property comply with federal regulations, and accordingly we limited our testing in this area to the BFD's responsibilities.


Footnotes

  1. Stull was sentenced under 18 USC 641.
  2. The Justice Property Management Regulations, dated August 6, 1998, implement or supplement the Federal Property Management Regulations System, 41 CFR Chapter 101.
  3. Section 128-1.5302 of the Justice Property Management Regulations states, in part, that, "[b]ureaus shall establish personal property accountability systems that contain, at minimum, the following elements: item description, manufacturer's serial number, bureau-assigned property number or barcode number, acquisition date, acquisition cost, location, and national stock number or locally?assigned stock number." Based on the Property Management Application records provided, we determined that the Property Management Application includes these required elements and thus meets with this Justice Property Management Regulations requirement.
  4. Throughout this report, we refer to property not listed in the Property Management Application as "under $1,000" property.
  5. The BFD uses the acronym ET to represent the term "electronics technician." The property area ET includes telecommunication and FM radio equipment.
  6. See Appendix III for a more detailed description of the BFD's property procedures.