Federal investigators are examining why agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration allegedly paid an Amtrak secretary more than $850,000 for passenger information that the agency could have obtained for free through an agreement with Amtrak police.
John Lavinsky, a spokesman for the Justice Department inspector general’s office, confirmed the probe this week.
The investigation came in response to a recent report from Amtrak’s inspector general’s office that brought the questionable payments to light. The review said the secretary provided DEA agents with passenger information including names, credit card numbers, emergency contact information, passport numbers and dates of birth.
The worker handed over the data “without seeking approval from Amtrak management or the Amtrak Police Department,” according to the report. The employee has been removed from service, and the railroad company has filed charges against the individual, the report said.
Under an agreement with the DEA, Amtrak police gives the agency information about passengers at no cost in exchange for a share of any funds seized through resulting investigations.
Amtrak is not a government agency, but it receives substantial federal subsidies. The company, which operates as a for-profit organization, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.