James M. Woosley, former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intelligence chief, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to an elaborate scam over several years involving false travel expense reports totaling nearly $600,000.
Woosley must surrender more than $180,000 he made in a scheme that also included several other ICE employees and contractors, federal prosecutors said.
The former federal employees all pleaded guilty to submitting false receipts and vouchers for reimbursement of travel expenses and time worked, according to court documents.
“Today James Woosley became the fifth — and highest-ranking — individual to plead guilty as part of a series of fraud schemes among rogue employees and contractors at ICE,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement. “He abused his sensitive position of trust to fleece the government by submitting phony paperwork for and taking kickbacks from subordinates who were also on the take.”
Sentencing was scheduled for July 13. Woosley could serve 18 to 27 months in prison, and faces a potential fine.
Four others previously pleaded guilty in the case, including Lateisha Rollerson, 38, whom Woosley had groomed to become an employee, at times lived with him and later went on to become his personal assistant. As part of her plea agreement in March, Rollerson was ordered to forfeit $295,000 gained in the fraud.
Also convicted were Ahmed Adil Abdallat, William J. Korn and Stephen E. Henderson, all close associates of Woosley who also took part in falsifying travel documents, according to court records.
The fraud began when Henderson, an ICE contractor, asked Rollerson to make up fake hotel receipts for travel, which were approved by Woosley, and submitted online through the federal government's voucher system.
From that point in June of 2008 to October of 2010, Rollerson submitted numerous fraudulent travel receipts, with a portion of the money kicked back to Woosley and other employees. Woosley used some of the money to buy a boat, according to court records.
In September of 2008, Woosley and his assistant came up with a scheme to live in a rental house in the tony Washington suburb of Alexandria, Va., rent free, court records show. Rent on the house was paid for by having Korn, who was based in Tucson, Ariz., submit false claims for temporary duty expenses at a hotel lodging rate. The hotel lodging rate was some $3,000 more per month than the rent on the home. Henderson as well as Woosley’s sons also at times lived in the house.
In another prong of the scheme, ICE employee Abdallat, who had a long association with Woosley and was based in El Paso, Texas, traveled to Washington, D.C., on extended temporary duty at Woosley’s request. He stayed in a private residence with his girlfriend but submitted fraudulent travel bills for hotel stays of more than $115,000, according to court documents. Some of that money was kept by Abdallat, but more than half went to Woosley, Rollerson and Woosley’s son.
According to a Washington Post, Woosley spent 28 years working in federal law enforcement, primarily with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which later became ICE, then a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
In 2009, Woosley was named the head of ICE intelligence effort. At one point in his career he served as ICE’s interim director for Intelligence.
Woosley was relieved of his position in February, 2011.
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