The last defendant in a travel voucher fraud and kickback scheme that bilked the federal government of more than $500,000 was sentenced today in federal District Court in Washington to two years' probation, including 120 days in a halfway house.
William J. Korn, 53, a former intelligence research specialist for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, avoided prison but was ordered by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to repay $50,832.49 he fraudulently obtained.
The scheme, which began in roughly May 2008 and continued through February 2011, used fake or inflated travel reimbursement claims for hotel stays, rental cars and other expenses. Four other former employees with the agency, including a former acting intelligence director and his assistant, already have pleaded guilty and been sentenced.
Korn, who lives in Tucson, Ariz., pleaded guilty in December to one count of conversion of public money, or embezzlement. He received the lightest sentence of the five former intelligence workers. Prosecutors recommended leniency, as he had substantially assisted the government with its investigation.
Korn kicked back more than $30,000 to the acting intelligence chief for the agency, James M. Woosley, 48, formerly of Tucson, who was sentenced earlier this month to 20 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $188,006 he had embezzled. Woosley’s former assistant and lover, Lateisha M. Rollerson, 38, of Bowie, Md., was sentenced to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay back $295,866. The government has described them as “leaders and organizers” of the scheme, according to court documents.
The other two defendants, Ahmed Adil Abdallat, 64, of El Paso, Texas, and Stephen E. Henderson, 62, of Asheville, N.C., were sentenced to a year and a day and three months in prison, respectively. Abdallat repaid $116,392, and Henderson repaid $54,387.
In a letter to the court and through his attorney, Korn has said the scheme was not his idea.
“Mr. Korn participated in the scheme in part because he feared he would face retribution in his job from Mr. Woosley if he declined to participate or discontinued participation,” Korn’s attorney, David Benowitz, wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court.
Korn worked for the Department of Homeland Security and its predecessor since 1998 as an intelligence officer, court records show. Before that, Korn served 21 years in the U.S. Army and was a decorated Green Beret and Army Ranger who reached the rank of master sergeant.
Prosecutors challenged Korn’s characterization that he participated in the scheme out of fear, pointing to his military experience.
“It is hard to believe that defendant is the kind of person to be pushed around by others considering his background, e.g., Army Master Sergeant, Green Beret, Army Ranger,” they wrote in their sentencing memorandum to the court.
Korn’s role in the scheme ran from October 2008 to December 2009. While on temporary duty assignment in Washington, he submitted inflated travel voucher claims, which he used in part to pay “rent” to Woosley and Rollerson for a house they leased together. Korn also pocketed some of the money he did not kick back.
In December 2009, Korn said he’d had enough, according to court records. Months earlier, he had declined a permanent position in Washington and returned to Arizona, from where he continued to send payments to Rollerson.
By the time he resigned his post in January 2012, he earned $152,000 a year, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by Benowitz. Korn now works part time at a grocery store, where he earns $7.69 an hour.