Former Background Investigator For Federal Government Pleads Guilty To Making A False Statement
WASHINGTON – Lindsay Branson III, 58, a former background investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), pled guilty today to a charge stemming from his falsification of work on background investigations of federal employees and contractors, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Patrick E. McFarland, Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management.
Branson, of Silver Spring, Md., pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to making a false statement. The Honorable Amy Berman Jackson scheduled sentencing for Oct. 10, 2013. The charge carries a statutory penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. As part of his plea agreement, Branson must pay $159,918 in restitution to the federal government.
According to a statement of offense submitted to the Court, Branson worked for Federal Investigative Services, a part of OPM that does federal background investigations.
Between September 2010 and November 2011, in multiple Reports of Investigations on background investigations, Branson represented that he had interviewed a source or reviewed a record regarding the subject of the background investigation. In fact, he had not conducted the interviews or obtained the records of interest. His reports were utilized and relied upon by the agencies requesting the background investigations to determine whether the subjects were suitable for positions having access to classified information, for positions impacting national security, or for receiving or retaining security clearances.
Branson’s false representations have required Federal Investigative Services to reopen and rework numerous background investigations that were assigned to him during the time period of his falsifications, at an estimated cost of at least $159,918 to the U.S. government.
Federal Investigative Services has a robust integrity assurance program which utilizes a variety of methods to ensure the accuracy of reported information. The falsification of investigative case work by the defendant was detected through the program.
This is one of numerous cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in the last four years involving false representations by background investigators and record checkers working on federal background investigations. In addition to Branson, 16 other background investigators and two record checkers have been convicted of charges.
Federal Investigative Services, through its workforce of approximately 7,600, including 6,100 field investigators, is responsible for conducting background investigations for numerous federal agencies and their contractors, on individuals either employed by or seeking employment with those agencies or contractors. Federal Investigative Services conducted more than 2.1 million investigations during the 2012 fiscal year. More than 770,000 of these investigations involved applicants for access or continued access to classified information.
In performing background investigations, the investigators conduct interviews of individuals who have information about the person who is the subject of the review. In addition, the investigators seek out, obtain, and review documentary evidence, such as employment records, to verify and corroborate information provided by either the subject of the background investigation or by persons interviewed during the investigation. After conducting interviews and obtaining documentary evidence, the investigators prepare a Report of Investigation containing the results of the interviews and document reviews, and electronically submit the material to OPM in Washington, D.C. OPM then provides a copy of the investigative file to the requesting agency, which can use the information to determine an individual’s eligibility for employment or a security clearance.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen and Inspector General McFarland praised the efforts of Special Agent Christopher Sulhoff, OPM, Office of the Inspector General, and Philip Kroop and David Newcomer, OPM, Federal Investigative Services. They also acknowledged the work of Paralegal Specialist Nicole Wattelet and Legal Assistant Angela Lawrence, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ellen Chubin Epstein and David A. Last, who investigated and prosecuted this matter.