Ex-federal agent charged in alleged cover-up

January 14, 2013 7:28:17 PM PST
A former Department of Homeland Security special agent was charged Monday in South Texas, accused in a conspiracy to falsify investigative documents ahead of an internal agency review.

Former DHS-Office of the Inspector General special agent Wayne Ball signed and backdated falsified reports indicating investigative activity had taken place where none actually had, according to documents filed Monday in federal court in Brownsville. Ball is the first to be charged in an investigation that started after an internal review in late 2011.

The investigation's focus has been the Homeland Security Inspector General's Office in McAllen where Ball worked. Court documents indicate a supervisor and another special agent also were involved but do not identify them.

Carlos A. Garcia, Ball's attorney, declined to comment Monday when reached by The Associated Press.

The Inspector General's Office is responsible for investigating the various branches of the Department of Homeland Security. In its McAllen office, that included myriad cases including in recent years the investigation of a Border Patrol agent charged with sexually assaulting a woman and in Ball's case the investigation into a customs officer suspected of aiding in drug and human trafficking.

Internal corruption, especially at the border, has been an ongoing challenge for the agency as the federal presence, particularly of the Border Patrol, swelled in recent years.

During one six month period in 2011, the Inspector General's Office reported that it had initiated 715 investigations and had 2,564 open investigations at that time.

According the court documents, in early 2011, the McAllen office was scheduled for an inspection to check its compliance with agency policies. The inspection didn't actually occur until September, but the office was aware and preparing for it.

Prosecutors allege that part of the office's preparation was falsifying internal documents to make it look like investigative activity had taken place on cases where it had not.

The purpose was to "conceal severe lapses in investigative standards and internal policies, including significant periods of inactivity in pending criminal investigations over periods of months or years," according to court documents. "More specifically, to conceal those lapses in particular criminal investigations by falsifying investigative activity which, in truth and fact, had not taken place."

In Ball's case, the unnamed supervisor instructed another unnamed special agent to fill in gaps in the investigation of the customs officer. But since that agent had not been present during that investigation, the supervisor told him to attribute the work to Ball. He then had Ball sign and backdate them, according to court documents.

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