McALLEN — The former special agent who headed Homeland Security's local Office of Inspector General has been accused, along with another agent, of falsifying records ahead of an internal inspection, according to an indictment filed Wednesday.
The scheme was an apparent cover-up to conceal "severe lapses in DHS-OIG's investigative standards" in cases involving other federal agents suspected of helping drug and human smugglers during an internal review of the McAllen office, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The 31-page indictment says an internal investigation of the McAllen Field Office in September 2011 revealed the discrepancies in investigations conducted locally by DHS-OIG, the federal agency tasked with investigating other DHS agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Following that internal probe, the FBI and a District of Columbia grand jury launched its own inquiries into problems at the McAllen DHS-OIG office, prompting further attempts to evade investigators by hiding and destroying documents, the indictment states.
McAllen resident Eugenio Pedraza was in charge of the McAllen office, where he was in charge of about 13 special agents. There, the indictment says he directed special agent Marco Rodriguez to falsify records in open investigations against other DHS employees suspected of helping smuggle drugs or people into the country, the Justice Department said in a statement released Wednesday.
The indictment, returned late Tuesday evening by a federal grand jury in Brownsville, charges Pedraza, 49, with six counts of falsifying records in federal investigations, five counts of obstructing an agency proceeding, one count of obstruction of justice and a count of conspiracy. The indictment also charges Rodriguez, 40, of Mission, with two counts of falsifying records in federal investigations, two counts of obstructing an agency proceeding and one count of conspiracy.
Both Pedraza and Rodriguez made initial appearances Wednesday before a U.S. magistrate in Brownsville, who set each man’s bond at $50,000. No defense attorney has been listed for either man in online court records.
‘GAPS OF INACTIVITY’
The indictment says Pedraza, who first joined the federal government as a Border Patrol agent in 1988, directed DHS-OIG employees to create and place backdated memos into investigative files that falsely reflected investigative cases that never occurred. Pedraza also is accused of having agents backdate review worksheets for supervisory case reviews that were never conducted, as well as backdated letters that supposedly informed the FBI of an open investigation, but none was ever sent.
The indictment names seven cases involving CBP and Border Patrol officials under investigation for allowing drug or human smugglers to operate through ports of entry in Brownsville and Pharr. Besides Rodriguez, five other agents under Pedraza's direction not named in the indictment were responsible for other cases.
The Justice Department said the scheme was apparently concocted to conceal Pedraza’s failure to ensure that investigations were being conducted promptly and thoroughly. Prosecutors said Pedraza did not provide adequate training and supervision to other agents in the office or notify the FBI in a timely manner that one of its agents was being investigated.
DHS-OIG headquarters in Washington learned of misconduct in the McAllen office in late March 2011. A confidential source working under Pedraza’s agents was sent to Dallas to help with their investigations, the indictment states.
The confidential source told the special agent in charge there of misconduct at the McAllen office, according to the indictment. Upon learning that Washington was aware of the misconduct in McAllen, the indictment says Pedraza told his agents to deactivate the informant and draft paperwork to deport him to Mexico.
Rodriguez and another unnamed agent deported the source to Mexico on April 29, 2011, the indictment states. Days later, investigators say Pedraza altered paperwork to show “(Special Agent G) and Joe Blow” deported the informant, removing Rodriguez’s name.
Pedraza learned in July 2011 that the McAllen office would face an internal review, and that the inspection would begin in September.
On several occasions, the indictment says an intern told Pedraza that a case file did not contain letters notifying the FBI of investigations. Pedraza in August 2011 instructed the intern to create backdated letters and put them in two case files, but not send them to the FBI, the indictment states. Similar directives were given to the unnamed agents listed in the indictment regarding paperwork for other cases.
Following the internal review, the FBI launched its own investigation into falsified documents in December 2011. By early February 2012, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., began directing its own investigation into the allegations, as well.
Upon learning of the FBI and grand jury’s probes, the indictment says Pedraza altered, destroyed and hid documents relevant to the inquiries.
No other charge has been filed against the five other agents not named in the indictment.
For his participation in the scheme, Wayne Ball, a former DHS-OIG special agent, pleaded guilty Jan. 17 before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane in McAllen to one count of a multi-object conspiracy to falsify records in federal investigations and to obstruct an agency proceeding. He is set to be sentenced July 31.
The most severe counts in the indictment carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and fines of $250,000.
Jared Taylor is a metro editor at The Monitor. He can be reached at email@example.com and (956) 683-4439 or on Twitter, @JaredATaylor.