Dead feds with credit cards!

Thursday - 4/17/2014, 2:00am EDT

When I was a very young reporter covering the cops, we got a lot of action around D.C.'s Thomas Circle area. Although just a few blocks from the White House, the area was a hotbed of prostitution and petty crime.

One night a middle-aged guy went to the Metropolitan Police Department with a complaint: He had been robbed. Seems he met a young woman, they agreed on a price and she took him to a nearby row house doubling as an unofficial hotel. She went upstairs, while he settled the bill. He paid. Then at the suggestion of the gentleman at the desk, the wanna-be-John put his valuables, money and watch in a large brown envelope. He then sealed it, wrote his name on it and gave it to the "desk clerk". For safe keeping! Then he went upstairs.

Guess what?

She was gone. Fire escape maybe. He went downstairs. The desk clerk was gone too. Gone with his watch, money and wallet. So he went to the cops. Just another night in the big city except for one detail that I left out: The guy who got flim-flammed was a high-level police official from a large midwestern town that rhymes with Kansas City. An experienced cop and administrator who had seen it all. Yet he comes to D.C. for a convention and forgets all his lessons.

So, what's the above got to do with what's going on in government these days? It's sort of an example of lessons not learned. What happens when good (and not so good) and smart (and not so smart) people do really stupid or illegal things when they should know better.

In an outfit the size of the U.S. government, given its reach and responsibilities, there are bound to be some bad apples. And some stupid people too. That said, why do presumably smart people keep making the same old mistakes. Do they think they are different? Won't get caught. Or are they unaware that better, smarter people than them have been nailed before for doing the same things? Cases in point:

WHAG TV (Nexstar Broadcasting Inc.,) in West Virginia broke the story of a Department of Homeland Security supervisor who got a $115,000 advance from a Charlestown casino, using his government credit card. That was last year. He's charged with 45 counts of wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in the slammer plus a $250,000 fine on each the 45 counts. To say this guy has a problem is to understate the obvious. But what was he thinking?

In 2011 the Washington Post reported on a small band of U.S. Postal Service "senior officials" who used government credit cards to purchase family members trips to Spain, or to buy computers and make purchases at "adult entertainment" shops. The story said an internal investigation found that the service had failed to cancel 2,491 cards issued to former employees, including 53 who were not only off the payroll but were also 100 percent dead! Dead men charging?

Abuse of government credit cards has been documented, usually by agency inspectors general or the media and tips from employees. There have been cases, often repeat instances, in many, if not most federal agencies. It has happened at the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency. Last month, The Fiscal Times outlined an IG report at the EPA, which said half of the charges sampled were prohibited and inappropriate, including things like fancy dinners, family gym memberships and other things out of the reach of many working feds.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

The word "doohickey," is nearly 100 years old. The word is believed to have first appeared in Our Navy magazine in November 1914.

(Source: Mental Floss)


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