The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Senior federal official admits bilking $37,000 from government, court files show

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Haroon Ullah has served as a member of the advisory staff to secretaries of state and as chief strategy officer at the U.S. Agency for Global Media. He is the author of several books on South Asia and terrorism policy and has a degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

On Thursday, he admitted in Alexandria federal court to bilking the government out of more than $37,000 by falsifying receipts, collecting reimbursement for personal travel and double-billing for trips.

Prosecutors also said he forged a letter from a doctor claiming he had to lie flat on long flights because of knee problems, which allowed him to fly business class at government expense.

“Dr. Ullah has done so much for the United States through his myriad contributions in the fight against terrorism,” defense attorney Mark Schamel said in a statement. “This case will not define him and all that he has done in saving American lives. Dr. Ullah is a dedicated patriot and he will continue to find ways to contribute to national security.”

Ullah worked at the State Department from 2010 until 2017, when he joined the USAGM. According to court records, Ullah was a member of the Senior Executive Service until his termination in April. The offenses occurred between February and October of last year, when he was put on administrative leave.

Formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the USAGM oversees U.S. government broadcasting to foreign countries.

Ullah would stay with friends and family or at budget hotels, according to court filings, and then use his government computer to create fake invoices for more expensive rooms. He would also doctor Uber receipts, claiming $70 rides from his home in Arlington to Reagan National Airport when the trips actually cost him less than $20, court records show.

He collected government reimbursements for personal travel and travel for book promotion, and on those trips, too, according to court records, he would pretend to stay in an expensive hotel to maximize his reimbursement.

Ullah admitted to one count of stealing government property, and as part of his plea deal, Ullah acknowledged that he falsified documents to get more insurance money from Liberty Mutual for tree damage to his house in Arlington.

He is set to be sentenced Oct. 11. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

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