A former intelligence chief for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is accused of embezzling more than $180,000 stemming from a travel voucher fraud and kickback scheme that has defrauded the government of more than $500,000.
James M. Woosley, 48, faces one count of conversion of public money, or embezzlement, according to a charging document filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington. Prosecutors also are seeking a judgment of $183,125.
"The information filed today is the first step in resolving this matter as it pertains to Mr. Woosley," said his attorney, William C. Brennan Jr.
William Miller, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, declined to comment because the case is ongoing.
Since October, four other agency intelligence employees, including Woosley's assistant, have pleaded guilty to their involvement in the scheme, which ran from roughly May 2008 to February 2011.
The assistant, Lateisha M. Rollerson, 38, of Bowie, Md., pleaded guilty last month to a similar charge, according to court records. She faces a likely sentence of one to two years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for June 7. As part of a plea agreement, Rollerson will forfeit $295,866.
Woosley's subordinates allegedly paid his mortgage, helped to pay for a boat he purchased and sent other kickbacks, court records and interviews show. Rollerson also created at least two companies that received kickbacks from other agency employees involved in the scheme, interviews and records show.
Robert Bonsib, Rollerson's attorney, declined to comment on the charge against Woosley or the disparity between the forfeiture amounts, but said his client's "position regarding this matter will be provided in court at the appropriate time."
In a career that spanned 28 years, mostly with the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service, Woosley held various posts, including assignments in Washington; El Paso, Texas; and Los Angeles. He also held foreign postings in attaché offices in South and Central America. He was the assistant regional director for the immigration service in Laguna Niguel, Calif. He was named acting director of the intelligence office in 2009. Woosley and Rollerson resigned within weeks of each other last fall.
The investigation has shaken the ICE intelligence office since the probe became public in February 2011, spurring a top-to-bottom internal review, new office leadership and added training. The office has about 450 employees and an $81.5 million budget this year.
The other three convicted employees are all former intelligence workers. Ahmed Adil Abdallat, a former ICE supervisory intelligence research specialist, was sentenced in January in El Paso to a year and a day in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $116,392.84. William J. Korn, a former intelligence research specialist, pleaded guilty in December. Stephen E. Henderson, a former ICE contractor, pleaded guilty in January.
Henderson and Korn both are scheduled to be sentenced next month. Another unnamed contract employee from Oklahoma has been mentioned in court documents, but not charged.
Woosley met Rollerson in 2007 and "developed a close, personal relationship" with her, according to court records. Rollerson asked Woosley to get her a job at the agency, and he suggested she first get a contract job.
In May 2008, after Woosley had another subordinate edit Rollerson's résumé, she was hired to work as a contract intelligence reports writer. She joined the agency in December 2008, first working in Woosley's chain of command and then directly reported to him as his personal assistant starting in February 2009, court records show.
Woosley and Rollerson often lived together in Virginia, where she paid many of the bills for both of them, according to court records.
Kyle Barnette, a retired ICE official who worked in Arizona while Woosley was stationed there, said his former colleague knew how to get things done, but also knew where the agency's skeletons were buried.
"There's no question he was king," Barnette said. "What he said everybody did."
No court date has been set for Woosley.