FBI cracking down on public corruption in Northern Va.
According to FBI officials, public corruption is often the result of agreements made in whispered conversations and sealed with quick handshakes among law enforcement officials, judges, government officials, city inspectors, taxing or zoning assessors or other regulatory agency employees; mayors and town council members — even school resource officers who manage school accounts.
The FBI says public corruption may also involve local officials colluding with real estate investors to rig the bidding process at foreclosure auctions,
“We want to reduce pervasive schemes and public safety issues,” said Timothy Gallagher, special agent in charge of the Criminal Division of the Washington Field Office. “Corruption hurts the community and this is our multi-pronged approach to tackling it in Northern Virginia.”
The FBI’s Washington Field Office also has a dedicated Northern Virginia Public Corruption Squad made up of 12 agents that investigate allegations of public corruption in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia. The squad also uses “forensic accountants” who ensure that once cases are initiated they are properly prepared for trial, Gallagher said.
Gallagher claims public corruption is currently the FBI’s “number one criminal investigative priority,” and said it occurs when a public official, at any level of government — local, state or federal — performs any official act in exchange for money, or other free goods or services, for private gain. Public corruption also includes public employees who take something of value for their own personal gain, thereby violating the public’s trust.
“There are cases in all categories in Northern Virginia,” said Gallagher, “although we expect perhaps a heavier presence of contracting corruption to come to light in this area as we move forward.”
Gallagher said the secretive nature of corruption makes it difficult to detect without the assistance of concerned citizens. Many of the FBI’s investigations into public corruption begin with a tip from someone who encounters corruption. Therefore, the public’s willingness to come forward and report abuse of public office is essential to the FBI’s investigations.
“Our goal is to reach out to the public and give people a venue to report suspicious acts. Secretive behavior during what should be a routine business transaction or employees circumventing the chain of command within an organization are signs of possible corruption and should be reported.”
A recent example of public corruption investigated by the FBI in Fairfax County was the case of a DMV employee from Springfield who worked in the DMV office in Fair Oaks Mall.
“That individual recently pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for approving DMV documents for illegal aliens who were otherwise not eligible,” said Rebecca Madvay, supervisor of the Washington Field Office’s public corruption division.
“There is some level of corruption everywhere,” Madvay added. “When a public official chooses a path of corruption and greed, we want to ensure that same path leads to prison.”
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