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Professional Responsibility
12/20/2011

Former ICE official pleads guilty to taking part in fraud against government

Scheme involved more than $50,000 obtained through travel vouchers

WASHINGTON – William J. Korn, 53, a former intelligence research specialist with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), pleaded guilty on Dec. 20 to taking part in a fraud scheme involving more than $50,000 in government money.

Korn, of Tucson, Ariz., pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of conversion of government money. The Honorable Amy Berman Jackson scheduled a status hearing for Jan. 27, 2012. A sentencing date has not been set. Under federal guidelines, Korn faces a likely sentence of up to a year in prison. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to forfeit the money wrongly obtained.

According to the government's evidence, with which Korn agreed, at all relevant times, Korn was either an intelligence research specialist or a supervisory intelligence research specialist for ICE HSI's Office of Intelligence.

The charge stems from Korn's dealings with two other individuals based in Washington, D.C., who also worked for ICE. One of the individuals was a supervisor in Korn's chain-of-command.

The case remains under investigation. For much of the scheme, Korn was on a temporary assignment in Washington, D.C., from his base in Tucson. When a U.S. government employee is officially on duty in a location other than the employee's permanent duty station, it is referred to as Temporary Duty (TDY) status. While on TDY, the employee is entitled to a per diem allowance for lodging, meals and other expenses.

The scheme involved the improper use of TDY money. Beginning in October 2008, the ICE supervisor approved Korn being on TDY status in Washington, D.C., pending a permanent move from Korn's previous posting in Tucson. In October 2008, Korn entered into a verbal agreement with the supervisor and the other ICE employee to lease a house in Alexandria, Va., where all three would reside together.

The plan called for Korn to pay the rent and utilities for the residence from his TDY funds.

Between October 2008 and June 2009, Korn filed TDY travel vouchers and paid $2,650 to $10,000 per month for the household expenses while retaining the remainder of the per diem money for himself. Because Korn did not itemize the negotiated $2,650 rent on his travel voucher, but claimed the traditional, higher hotel rate for lodging for this period of time, Korn wrongfully obtained almost $3,000 per month more than what he was entitled.

At times during this period, other ICE contractors also lived in the Alexandria residence and paid some rent, around $500 a month per individual, to the ICE supervisor and the other employee.

In February 2009, Korn was selected by ICE for a permanent supervisory intelligence research specialist position in Washington, D.C. Korn delayed accepting the position because the supervisor wanted to extend Korn's TDY status – and corresponding per diem payments – to continue to pay the rent and utilities for the Alexandria residence. However, in May 2009, Korn declined the position in Washington, D.C., and told the supervisor that he did not want to lose the equity in his home in Arizona that would result from him making the move. In June 2009, the supervisor told Korn to pay all of Korn's TDY voucher funds to him so that the supervisor could buy a house in Stafford, Va. The supervisor told Korn that he would make up the difference later by sending Korn on TDY to South America and the Philippines.

In July 2009, Korn returned to his personal home and job in Tucson. The second ICE employee subsequently told Korn that he needed to continue to file TDY vouchers to pay the rent for the Alexandria residence. Korn continued to file vouchers to pay the rent for the Alexandria residence from July 2009 to December 2009 – even though he knew he was no longer entitled to the TDY money. He also continued to pay the rent for the Alexandria residence with the wrongfully obtained TDY funds, partly because he was concerned about retribution from the supervisor. Finally, in December 2009, Korn declared that he was not going to pay anymore rent for the Alexandria residence.

As a result of the submission of TDY vouchers, Korn, aided by the ICE supervisor and employee, received $50,832 more than what he was entitled to from ICE between October 2008 to December 2009. Korn contends that he turned the vast majority of this money over to the supervisor and the other ICE employee.

This case was investigated by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Washington Field Office, and ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility's Special Investigations Unit.

In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr.; Special Agent in Charge of the DHS Office of the Inspector General James Izzard, Jr.; Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office James W. McJunkin; and Deputy Division Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility's Special Investigations Unit Paul Layman praised the investigative agents from the respective agencies for their hard work in this matter.

They also acknowledged the efforts of Legal Assistant Jared Forney, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Butler and Allison Barlotta, who are handling this prosecution, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Sroka, who is handling the asset forfeiture.