|The USMS is responsible for ensuring the safe and secure conduct of judicial proceedings; protecting more than 2,000 federal judges and approximately 5,250 other court officials at more than 400 court facilities while providing security systems at over 800 facilities; arresting federal, state, and local fugitives; protecting federal witnesses; transporting federal prisoners; managing assets seized from criminal enterprises; and responding to major national events, terrorism, and significant high-threat trials. The USMS Director and Deputy Director work with 94 U.S. Marshals to direct approximately 4,900 employees at more than 350 locations throughout the 50 states, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.|
The OIG’s Evaluation and Inspections Division examined the work of the USMS unit that conducts investigations of employee misconduct, the Office of Internal Investigations (OII). Our review found that OII suffered from persistent understaffing and did not meet its 90-day standard for investigating misconduct in over half of its cases.
To determine the reasons for the persistent understaffing, we compared the structure and staffing of the USMS OII to internal investigations offices in other Department agencies and determined that OII is under-resourced, has lower-graded investigator positions, and lacks adequate administrative and analytic support. The lack of adequate staffing in OII results in investigators having caseloads three to five times larger than those of investigators in other Department agencies’ internal investigations offices.
During our review period, only three of OII’s seven investigator positions were filled, and OII had not been fully staffed since at least 2003. According to USMS management, Deputy U.S. Marshals generally lack interest in applying for OII investigator positions because: the positions are compensated at a low grade level; serving in a headquarters rotation is not a required part of the USMS career path, and is not necessary to obtain a promotion in the agency; the cost of living in the Washington, D.C. area is high; and there is a negative perception of internal affairs work. The USMS has recently acted to upgrade the positions and assign temporary staff to reduce the number of outstanding investigations.
We made two recommendations to help OII improve the timely investigation of employee misconduct. We recommended that the USMS: 1) continue to pursue short-term strategies to staff the vacant OII investigator positions, such as temporarily assigning investigators to OII, until the positions can be filled by permanent employees; and 2) develop a strategic plan to ensure that OII has sufficient resources to perform its mission in the long term. The USMS concurred with the recommendations.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 202 complaints involving the USMS. The most common allegations made against USMS employees included job performance failure; force, abuse, and civil rights violations; and official misconduct. The OIG opened 11 investigations and referred 13 allegations to the USMS’s Office of Internal Affairs for review. The majority of the complaints were considered management issues and were provided to the USMS for its review and appropriate action.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 25 open cases of alleged misconduct against USMS employees. The following are examples of cases involving the USMS that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- A joint investigation by the OIG’s New York Field Office and the FBI resulted in the arrest of a USMS analyst on charges of bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and illegally obtaining information from a government computer. The investigation determined that the analyst misused a USMS computer to access information from the FBI’s NCIC database to assist her husband’s gang-related criminal activities. The allegation arose in connection with the FBI’s investigation of the gang activities of the analyst’s husband, who was also arrested and charged. The analyst is on administrative leave from the USMS. Judicial proceedings continue.
- An investigation by the OIG’s New York Field Office led to the arrest of a USMS administrative employee assigned to the Witness Security Division. OIG investigators determined that the administrative employee filed fraudulent transit subsidy reimbursement forms and stole two USMS E-ZPass transponders that she used for highway and bridge tolls for personal travel over a period of approximately three years. The OIG determined the total theft amounted to approximately $10,000. The administrative employee has been suspended by the USMS. Judicial proceedings continue.
- In our March 2009 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on an investigation by the OIG’s New York Field Office that resulted in the arrest of four USMS contract correctional officers (one of whom was a lieutenant) on charges of excessive force, obstruction of justice, and making a false statement. The OIG investigation led to an indictment returned in the Eastern District of New York alleging that an inmate at the Queens Private Detention Facility (a USMS contract facility) was assaulted after he purportedly made a derogatory remark to one of the correctional officers. The assault was brought to the attention of correctional facility authorities after inmates in the victim’s dormitory demanded that he receive medical treatment. Subsequently, three of the correctional officers allegedly conspired to cover up the incident and attempted to prevent two other correctional facility officers, both of whom reported to the lieutenant, from reporting the assault. In addition, the lieutenant and two correctional officers allegedly made false statements to law enforcement authorities in an effort to obstruct the government’s investigation.
During this reporting period the lieutenant and two of the contract correctional officers were sentenced in the Eastern District of New York pursuant to their convictions at trial by a jury. The lieutenant was sentenced to one year of incarceration, followed by three years of supervised release on charges of conspiracy to obstruct an investigation, obstruction and attempted obstruction of an investigation, obstruction of justice by tampering, and making false statements. Two of the correctional officers received sentences ranging from three years of probation to six months’ incarceration followed by three years of supervised release pursuant to their convictions on charges of obstruction and attempted obstruction of investigation, and making false statements. The third correctional officer was convicted of attempted corrupt persuasion of another at a retrial in January 2010 and is awaiting sentencing.
The OIG is assessing the USMS’s oversight of federal courthouse security. We are examining the USMS’s management of its court security officer program and physical security for federal court facilities.