An assistant to a former top immigration and customs official has been charged with stealing nearly $296,000 from the government, the fourth defendant in a widening probe of a fake travel voucher kickback scheme involving the agency’s intelligence office.
Lateisha M. Rollerson, a onetime assistant to the former acting intelligence chief for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, James M. Woosley, faces one count of conversion of public money, as well as criminal forfeiture, according to a charging document filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Prosecutors are seeking a judgment of $295,866.
Three other former intelligence employees with ICE already have pleaded guilty since October to embezzlement charges, which involved filing fake travel reimbursement claims for expenses such as hotel rooms, rental cars and other costs while on temporary duty. The amount of money stolen by the three convicted defendants is more than $221,000, records show.
At least three more ICE workers have been implicated, including an unnamed supervisor, one of his sons and another unnamed contract employee from Oklahoma, among others, according to the charging document. All told, the number of ICE workers involved stands at seven.
Rollerson created companies that received kickback payments as part of the scheme, interviews and records obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting show. She helped arrange for at least two co-workers to receive payments from ICE using fake travel vouchers, interviews show. Those employees then were asked to write personal checks to companies Rollerson had registered.
One of the companies, Executive Security Forces, also lists Woosley’s son, Chad, as a managing member. Chad Woosley, a former ICE employee, was fired from the agency in March 2011, a few months after the agency hired him. He worked as an ICE contract employee before that. The limited liability company was registered in 2010, Florida Secretary of State records show.
Rollerson used her government e-mail address to conduct business regarding Executive Security Forces, one record shows.
Rollerson, who resigned last fall, also is listed as owner of Lifeskillz Support LLC, which she registered in Florida in 2010. She previously filed organization papers for it as a limited liability company first in Georgia in July 2007 and later that same year in Maryland, according to state records.
Robert Bonsib, Rollerson's attorney, wrote in an e-mail that his client “is a wonderful person caught up in an unfortunate situation.” He declined further comment. James Woosley's attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., declined to comment. Chad Woosley could not be reached for comment.
The scandal has shaken the ICE intelligence office, which has about 450 employees and a 2012 budget of $81.5 million, since it became known in February 2011.
The agency has since put in a new intelligence management team, added training and instituted a corrective action plan following a top-to-bottom internal review. The review inspected how the intelligence office handles classified material, government-issued property, IT security, travel and firearms, among other areas.
Neither James Woosley nor Chad Woosley has been arrested, charged or named by prosecutors. James Woosley quit his post last fall. The agency placed him on administrative leave in February 2011.
In his 28-year career in federal law enforcement, James Woosley held a variety of posts, including assignments in Washington; El Paso, Texas; and Los Angeles, before he was named acting intelligence chief in June 2009.
In January 2007, Rollerson “met an ICE supervisor with whom she … developed a close, personal relationship,” according to the charging document.
An ICE contractor hired her in May 2008 as an intelligence reports writer before she joined the agency in December 2008. She began to report directly to the supervisor in February 2009. Her involvement in the scheme began in June 2008 and continued until February 2011, the document shows.
James Woosley registered a limited liability company, CLJ Enterprises, in July 2011. Kentucky Secretary of State records list Chad Woosley and Rollerson as co-organizers of the company.
Another court document filed in late January in federal District Court in El Paso by an attorney for one of the convicted ICE workers speculates that the elder Woosley and his son also will be prosecuted. A different document filed in January by the government in U.S. District Court in Washington says two unnamed ICE employees – a supervisor and an assistant – were negotiating with prosecutors.
William Miller, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
As part of the embezzlement ploy, former ICE intelligence research specialist Ahmed Adil Abdallat, 64, of El Paso, wrote personal checks to Lifeskillz Support and Executive Security Forces, his attorney, Mary Stillinger, said in an interview.
“There was no pretense of hiring Executive Security Forces or using Lifeskillz Support,” she said. “Mr. Abdallat knew nothing about the businesses. He just did what he was told.”
Abdallat, who was sentenced earlier this year to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $116,392.84, also wrote checks to Rollerson and Chad Woosley, Stillinger said.
On three occasions, Abdallat paid the mortgage of a house belonging to James Woosley, according to Stillinger. He wrote checks ranging from $3,000 to $6,500 to Lifeskillz Support and two checks of approximately $5,000 each to Executive Security Forces.
An FBI agent testified last year that Abdallat sent an estimated $58,000 to other ICE employees involved in the scheme, including James Woosley and Rollerson.
Stillinger said James Woosley convinced Abdallat that they could claim lodging vouchers for a rental house where employees on temporary duty could stay. The attorney said Rollerson then fabricated and submitted hotel receipts without Abdallat’s knowledge that were used to request reimbursements for him.
The investigation began as an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force probe after Abdallat, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was discovered wiring large sums of money back to his native Jordan.
Confronted by federal agents at his home in early February 2011, Abdallat cooperated with the FBI and told them about the travel voucher scheme, Stillinger said. He also was charged with eight counts of misuse of a diplomatic passport, but had all but two of those charges dropped. Investigators did not find a connection between the travel voucher fraud and the money transfers, Stillinger said.
William J. Korn and Stephen E. Henderson are the two other former intelligence workers who have pleaded guilty since December. The scheme, in Henderson’s case, started in July 2008 and continued until October 2010, records show. Prosecutors are seeking a money judgment of $54,387.62 against Henderson, who worked as a contract senior lead intelligence analyst.
As part of a plea agreement, Korn agreed to forfeit $50,832.49. His involvement began in October 2008, when he joined two other employees in agreeing to lease an Alexandria, Va., house. Korn paid rent and utilities for the house with reimbursements from fake hotel lodging claims until December 2009, when the intelligence research specialist told the assistant that he wouldn’t submit falsified vouchers anymore, records show.
No court date has been set for Rollerson.