San Antonio, Texas - A former Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security - Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) was sentenced to 37 months in prison today for a scheme to falsify records and obstruct an internal DHS-OIG inspection, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office.
The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the Southern District of Texas.
“While leading an office responsible for investigating misconduct at other government agencies, Pedraza sought to impede and obstruct the investigation of his own office,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Pedraza’s criminal conduct resulted in the premature closing of criminal cases without resolution, potentially endangering our national security and allowing others to escape justice. We will root out and prosecute corruption wherever it may be found, including within the ranks of federal law enforcement.”
Former DHS-OIG Special-Agent-in-Charge Eugenio Pedraza, 50, of McAllen, Texas, was found guilty following a four-day jury trial on March 14, 2014, of conspiring with three other special agents to falsify criminal investigative reports to impede an internal DHS-OIG inspection and obstruct the underlying criminal investigations. The jury also found Pedraza guilty of five counts of falsifying records.
DHS-OIG is responsible for investigating alleged criminal activity by DHS employees, including corruption by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel affecting the integrity of the U.S. borders. Pedraza headed DHS-OIG’s McAllen Field Office (MCA) from January 2009 to January 2012.
According to evidence presented at trial, in September 2011, DHS-OIG conducted an internal inspection of the MCA to evaluate whether the agency’s investigative standards and policies were being followed. In anticipation of the internal inspection, Pedraza and at least three other DHS-OIG agents, including Special Agent Wayne Ball, engaged in a scheme to falsify investigative documents to make it appear that criminal investigations were being conducted in a timely fashion and in accordance with DHS-OIG standard operating procedures. The scheme’s purpose was to conceal severe lapses in DHS-OIG’s investigative standards and policies at the MCA and Pedraza’s failure to properly supervise agents and investigations. Court documents reflect that Pedraza, Ball, and other special agents wrote and signed false criminal investigative reports. Pedraza then approved the reports for inclusion in the official investigative case files.
For example, the evidence at trial showed that, at Pedraza’s direction, a special agent drafted false memoranda of activity (MOAs) to fill gaps of inactivity in a criminal investigation to which he was assigned. The criminal investigation had been initiated in March 2010 and concerned allegations that a CBP officer was assisting the unlawful smuggling of undocumented aliens and narcotics into the United States. Because the MOAs were intended to describe investigative activities that occurred when the drafting agent was either not present at the MCA or not employed by DHS-OIG at all, Pedraza directed the agent to attribute the investigative activity to Ball. Ball then signed and backdated the false MOAs. Pedraza also signed and backdated the false MOAs, which were then placed in the investigation’s case file in advance of the internal inspection. Upon discovery of the falsified reports, the criminal investigation had to be closed without resolution. According to evidence presented at trial, Pedraza similarly directed other special agents to falsify records related to at least four other criminal investigations.
On Jan. 17, 2013, Ball pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with Pedraza and at least two other special agents to falsify records in federal investigations and obstruct an agency proceeding. Ball is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 7, 2015, by U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle of the Southern District of Texas.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Eric Gibson, Brian Kidd and J.P. Cooney of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.