FBI

A DMV employee accepting bribes, a volunteer fire department chief using department money for personal expenses, a school employee stealing from student activity funds.

All are examples of public corruption and the FBI’s Washington Field Office wants the public’s help to identify other acts like this.

FBI officials this week announced a campaign aimed at cracking down on public corruption in Northern Virginia.

“The idea behind this is public awareness,” Tim Gallagher, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field, office said Tuesday at an event announcing the public awareness campaign.

Public corruption often involves secretive acts that can be difficult to detect without tips and information from the public, Gallagher said.

Investigating public corruption is a priority of the Washington Field office, which has three divisions dedicated to investigating such cases in Washington, Northern Virginia and in federal cases. The Northern Virginia public corruption squad includes 12 agents and was established two years ago, officials said.

The FBI defines public corruption as “any public official who utilizes their office for public gain,” Gallagher said.

Cases the FBI investigates include corruption among law enforcement officers, judges and other court personnel, public officials such as DMV employees, zoning officials, town councils, mayors and governors, contracting officials an real estate investors involved in foreclosure auctions.

The FBI wants the public to be on the lookout for signs of corruption, which are often acts done in secret, “disguised to look like normal business when it’s not,” Gallagher said.

The Washington Field Office has set up a Northern Virginia public corruption hotline at 703-686-6225 that area residents can call to report possible corruption. Tips can also be emailed to NOVAPC@ic.fbi.gov.

“We want to make people aware… and to give them a venue to report something that they feel might not be right,” said Rebecca Madvay, supervisor of the Washington Field Office’s public corruption division.

Among the recent public corruption cases investigated by the Washington Field Office was a bribery scheme that involved issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. In that case, according to court documents, Jose Calderon, 42, of Sterling, solicited cash from more than 100 illegal immigrants between September 2007 and July 2010 in exchange for helping them obtain driver’s licenses. Calderon used the money to bribe Maria Cavallaro, 45, of Springfield, an employee at the DMV service center at Fair Oaks Mall, to falsely verify that the applicants were eligible for driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and identification cards. Calderon pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to bribe a DMV employee and was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. Cavallero and a third defendant, Noemi Barboza, 42, of Sterling, also pleaded guilty to charges in the case.

The FBI also recently investigated a fraud and embezzlement case involving Douglas G “Bo” Taylor, the former chief of the Remington Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department. According to court records, Taylor, 52, of Remington, a master electrician, offered to do renovations on the fire station and submitted false invoices charging the fire department for materials he did not purchase and services he did not perform. Authorities said Taylor, who was also a facilities services employee for Prince William County schools, also used a school division credit card to buy materials used in the fire station renovation project. He was also accused of not reporting the money he received from the fire department and from Virginia Lottery winnings to the IRS. He was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay restitution if $70,833 to the Remington Volunteer Fire Department, $59,419 to Prince William County schools and $79,576 to the IRS.

Taylor’s case is an example of how public corruption can affect a community, Madvay said.

After news spread of Taylor’s arrest, some in the community were more hesitant to support the volunteer fire department at fundraisers and by joining the department, she said.

“That is where you see fallout from something like this,” Madvay said. “It does impact the community.”

By cracking down on public corruption, FBI officials hope they can encourage the public to maintain faith in public officials, even when such isolated examples of fraud emerge.

“When a public official chooses a path of corruption and greed, we want to ensure that same path leads to prison,” Madvay said.

Tags

(6) comments

gvdad

Nobody likes corruption but this reeks of a"snitch squad" looking to manufacture crimes. Something like this could easily be turned against political opposition.

CCW

The primary mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats.

None of the FBI’s Washington Field Office success stories mentioned in this article rise to that level. All of them were the responsibility of local, regional or state police investigative and enforcement agencies. You don't use a sledge hammer to crack a walnut open.

Perhaps Virginia's in-house police departments and resources are operating in a continuous overload of crisis management that means they have no choice but to "ask for" the FBI to help?

Or the FBI's new field office:
1. Has determined that there are no terrorists or intelligence threats.
2. Claimed credit for what Virginia's police departments accomplished.
3. There wasn't enough work for them to do.
4. Or the "snitch squad" you mentioned is up, running and ready for the 2016 National Elections. If this is true then the "idea behind this is public awareness" so long as it includes instilling fear as the crucial objective.

Paul Miller

CCW, I think you are short-changing what the FBI does.

"The mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners."

The focus on terrorism and foreign intelligence threats as a 'primary' mission seems relatively new, and by law still limited to certain activities that come back to enforcing U.S. federal laws. Rooting out governmental corruption and assisting local law enforcement efforts are certainly part of its traditional functions.

Of course being party to governmental corruption is one of the long-term criticisms, especially back in the Hoover days, whether those criticisms had merit or not. Gvdad thinks the threat of that corruption and investigative bullying continues, and of course it does - just something we as citizens need to constantly guard against. Same with police corruption, etc. That threat never goes away, because people have their flaws and shortcomings.

CCW

Paul,
Respectfully what I said still stands. I believe the version of the FBI's mission that you gave reflects the FBI's expansions through the years to suit, serve and/or justify whatever the political forces happened to be.

The FBI isn't alone in this kind of thing by any means. The FCC's primary mission was to monitor for International distress calls and police the frequency spectrum for radio interferences, including jamming etc. by our enemies.

Similarly the US Coast Guard mission was to do just what it's name implies; guard our coast lines and again serve whatever was needed for International distress situations.

Currently one of the most egregious abuses of power goes to the Obama administration for it's use of the EPA to create unlawful legislation, then go about punishing individuals and/or organizations that they deem in violation of their laws.

Personally I'm pleased to see that opt-in contributors to this article today are all over the FBI about what it is or isn't doing. Our elected leaders and government have fostered a situation where the public's trust is at an all time low.

Maybe everything that the FBI's Field Office is doing is appropriate, justified and suitable considering the times we live in. The however is, it's going to take more than a few articles like this one for the public's confidence and faith to be restored. That alone might be something that they could consider incorporating into their mission statement.

Paul Miller

Maybe the FBI ought to just look at developer money flowing into local candidate campaign warchests. I realize contributions alone don't necessarily mean some sort of quid pro quo is going on... but at the local level it usually means some sort of quid pro quo is going on.

CCW

“When a public official chooses a path of corruption and greed, we want to ensure that same path leads to prison..”

Would this include the IRS targeting private citizens that belong to Conservative organizations?

That aside, on the local issue of forcing the Bi-County Parkway down Prince William County residents throats, confiscating private property in the process and the National Park Authority's misuse of taxpayer dollars and trust, the FBI should have enough to keep them busy for seven generations of employees yet to come.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.