FBI appeals for public’s help in ferreting out public corruption in Northern Virginia

The FBI took the unusual step of asking for the public’s assistance in corruption cases on Tuesday, in a news release that listed the Washington Field Office’s telephone hotline and an e-mail address for tips.

In the release, the agency called public corruption its “number one criminal investigative priority” and said it was especially interested in ferreting it out in Northern Virginia. The agency said many of its corruption cases begin with tips and asked anyone with information to call a special Northern Virginia Public Corruption Hotline at 703-686-6225 or send an e-mail to NOVAPC@ic.fbi.gov.

“Public corruption is often the result of agreements made in whispered conversations and sealed with quick handshakes,” the FBI said in its release. “The secretive nature of the crime makes it difficult to detect without the assistance of concerned citizens.”

The release was unusual in that it was not tethered to any specific case, thought it did highlight a few cases that have made their way through the federal courthouse in Alexandria.

In one such case, several people admitted running a scheme through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to get authentic state IDs for illegal immigrants. In others, volunteer fire officials admitting taking money from their department coffers.

Lindsay Godwin, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said officials issued the release because defendants had recently been sentenced in those cases. She said officials wanted to emphasize that public corruption is not reserved for members of Congress and others at the highest levels of the federal government but can involve government employees at all levels.

“Because of these recent sentencings, we wanted to come out with a press release just noting, hey, these have occurred,” Godwin said. “We want the public to come out and share with us if they see any signs of public corruption.”

Godwin said the Washington Field Office had agents assigned to investigate federal public corruption, D.C. public corruption and Northern Virginia public corruption.

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Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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