WASHINGTON – The Justice Department is requesting an independent investigation of the U.S. Marshals Service following a series of concerns raised by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. News of the investigation comes just two days after Grassley spoke on the Senate floor about whistleblower allegations of improper hiring practices and spending in the Marshals Service’s Asset Forfeiture Division.
“It’s good to see the Justice Department taking seriously the numerous whistleblower claims of improper behavior and use of resources by a federal agency that is supposed to enforce our laws. These claims by brave agency whistleblowers point to nothing less than a systemic culture of waste and abuse by agency officials, and we need to get to the bottom of this. I will continue to raise whistleblower concerns as I receive them, and will help in this investigation wherever appropriate,” Grassley said.
In a letter to Grassley today, the Justice Department stated, “In light of the extensive and important concerns raised in your letters and by your staff … the Department has referred these allegations for an independent investigation by the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).” The Department also pledged to continue to collect and review information to respond to Grassley’s inquiries.
Grassley sent letters to the Marshals Service Director on March 18 regarding alleged misuse of the Asset Forfeiture Fund, including claims that officials used the Fund to purchase extravagant office furnishings. Earlier this week, Grassley called on the Marshals Service to explain discrepancies in its response to these allegations.
Grassley also sent a letter to DOJ on March 19 relating to allegations of an inappropriate exchange of favors that led to the hiring of a highly-paid yet unqualified contractor and a promotion for a Marshals Service official. Grassley followed up on his letter regarding the alleged hiring quid pro quo on April 7, after the Justice Department failed to dispel these concerns. The Justice Department later stated on April 17 that it may have provided the Committee with incomplete or inaccurate information and is continuing its investigations. In this letter, the Justice Department supplied email records supporting the claims of a quid pro quo.
These exchanges have prompted other whistleblowers to come forward to raise new concerns and corroborate some of the earlier allegations.