A former intelligence specialist with Immigration and Customs Enforcement pleaded guilty last week to embezzling more than $50,000, the second agency employee recently convicted in an unfolding travel voucher kickback scheme that stretches from Arizona to Washington.
William J. Korn, 53, of Tucson admitted in a plea agreement to a felony charge of aiding and abetting the conversion of public money for his role in the scheme.
Korn, while on temporary assignment in Washington, claimed reimbursements for expensive hotel lodging rates while he lived in an Alexandria house that he leased with two other ICE employees, court records show.
As part of a plea deal, Korn agreed to forfeit $50,832.49, money he fraudulently claimed. Korn’s attorney, David Benowitz, declined to comment. Korn contends that he turned most of the money over to a supervisor and another ICE employee, records show.
Korn is the second former ICE employee to plead guilty to embezzlement in recent months. In October, Ahmed Adil Abdallat, a former intelligence analyst in El Paso, admitted to stealing at least $70,000 he obtained through travel vouchers, among other charges. A sentencing hearing for Abdallat is scheduled for next month. He faces as much as 10 years in prison plus restitution, the amount of which will be set at sentencing.
The federal investigation has entangled at least two other former ICE employees, including an acting intelligence chief, James M. Woosley, and his assistant, Leticia Rollerson, an FBI agent testified in March in Federal District Court in El Paso.
Based in Washington, Woosley and Rollerson resigned within weeks of each other earlier this year. Neither has been arrested or charged. They could not be reached for comment.
Abdallat admitted that he submitted vouchers for travel reimbursement totaling more than $116,000 between February 2009 and September 2010, according to court documents. An FBI agent testified that Abdallat sent an estimated $58,000 to other ICE employees involved in the scheme, including Woosley and Rollerson.
Korn admitted to working with a supervisor in his chain of command and the supervisor’s assistant. Both were based in Washington and lived in Virginia.
William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, would not comment on the case as the investigation continues. He would not say whether the supervisor and the assistant are Woosley and Rollerson.
According to records, in October 2008 Korn agreed to lease the house with the other two ICE employees, where they would all reside. Korn agreed to pay rent and utilities for the house with temporary duty reimbursement funds.
He submitted travel vouchers of as much as $10,000 a month for more expensive hotel lodging rates while each month pocketing about $3,000 more than he was due. Other ICE contractors lived in the house at times and paid about $500 each in rent to the ICE supervisor and the other employee, records show.
In February 2009, Korn was offered a permanent assignment in Washington. He delayed accepting that position because the supervisor wanted to extend Korn’s temporary status to continue to use the reimbursement funds to pay rent and utilities for the Alexandria house, records show.
Korn eventually declined the transfer but was told to continue filing pay vouchers so the supervisor could buy a house in Stafford. After he moved back to Arizona in July 2009, the assistant told Korn to file more travel vouchers to pay rent for the Alexandria house.
Partly out of fear of retribution, Korn submitted fake vouchers until December 2009, when he told the assistant he wouldn’t pay rent anymore, records show.
No sentencing date has been set for Korn. His next court hearing is slated for late January. He faces up to a year in prison and a fine of as much as $20,000.
Andrew Becker is a reporter for the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in Berkeley, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.