COLUMBUS, Ohio – A former federal probation officer pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today for extortion. During her time as a probation officer, she accepted cash, pills, goods and services from individuals under her supervision.
Helwa H. Qasem, 44, of Bexley, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging her with extortion under color of official right, a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
According to court documents, from 2016 through 2018, Qasem accepted Xanax, cash, a sweater, a bag and below-market personal services in exchange for official actions as a probation officer.
In her role as a U.S. Probation Officer, Qasem supervised offenders who had been sentenced to terms of probation by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio or who were serving terms of supervised release after release from prison. It was part of her duties to report individuals who violated their terms of probation or supervised release.
As part of her plea, Qasem admitted she extorted property from at least four individuals under her supervision and, in return, did not report violations committed by those individuals. For example, at least two individuals under supervision and the spouse of a third provided Xanax to Qasem for her personal use.
Qasem also unlawfully received several personal services, including moving services to help her relocate to a new home, and repairs to blinds, a dryer, a dishwasher, a washing machine and a vehicle. A person under Qasem’s supervision arranged for workers to provide these personal services for her.
Finally, Qasem admitted to sharing confidential information she received from a Columbus police officer to an individual under her supervision. Qasem had received a police report from the officer. The report stated that the officer had met with a person who was attempting to become a confidential informant and who had provided information that a person under Qasem’s supervision was a drug trafficker. The report contained a photograph of the potential informant. Qasem showed that photograph to the person under her supervision and told him to stay away from the potential informant.
Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; J. William Rivers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI); Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant and other members of the FBI’s Southern Ohio Public Corruption Task Force announced the plea entered into today before U.S. District Judge Sarah D. Morrison. Assistant United States Attorneys Peter K. Glenn-Applegate and Elizabeth A. Geraghty are representing the United States in this case.
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