ICE employees photo

James. M Woosley, a former acting intelligence chief for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is scheduled to be sentenced next month, the fifth defendant in a travel voucher fraud scheme that bilked the government of more than 0,000.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

 Lateisha Rollerson was working part time at a Safeway store in Virginia in 2007 when she met her future lover and boss.

James Woosley was a frequent customer who had recently moved back to the Washington, D.C., area as a high-ranking intelligence official for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Promoted to be deputy director of the agency’s intelligence division, Woosley had left his family in Arizona. Rollerson also worked as a contract employee for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, another agency of the Homeland Security Department.

Within months the two developed “a close, personal relationship,” according to court records. Woosley helped Rollerson get a job with a contractor writing intelligence reports for his agency and then a full-time government position as an intelligence research specialist.

They moved in together, picked out a boat and, later, bought a rustic retreat on the Occoquan River in Northern Virginia, according to court records. Eventually, she became Woosley’s personal assistant.  

For much of that time, she was also his partner in crime.

Rollerson, 38, of Bowie, Md., is headed to prison after she and Woosley, who eventually became the agency’s acting director of intelligence, appeared to lead a travel voucher fraud and embezzlement scheme that bilked the government of more than $500,000 and ensnared three other agency intelligence workers who have already pleaded guilty. Woosley may face prison time himself.

U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson on Thursday sentenced Rollerson in federal district court in Washington to 10 months behind bars and ordered her to forfeit $295,866. Rollerson is the third of five defendants to be sentenced.

Robert Bonsib, Rollerson’s attorney, declined to comment. He previously described his client as “a wonderful person caught up in an unfortunate situation.”

In late May, Stephen Henderson, a former ICE contract intelligence worker, was sentenced to three months in prison after a plea agreement in which he also agreed to forfeit $54,387.

In a timeline submitted to the court before his sentencing, Henderson, 61, wrote that while he had knowingly participated in the scheme, Woosley and Rollerson hoodwinked him as they filed counterfeit hotel receipts on his behalf.

“What is really unfortunate about this situation is that I let them talk me into it. This really did open a doorway to hell,” Henderson wrote. “Until the two of them got busted for this activity, I did not realize that they were doing this systematically.”

The scheme involved filing fraudulent travel voucher claims for hotel lodging, car rentals and other expenses. Rollerson and Woosley also falsified time and attendance records and claims for travel that never occurred. Tens of thousands of dollars were kicked back to Rollerson and Woosley.

Woosley’s attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Woosley, 48, and another defendant, William Korn, 53, of Tucson, Ariz., are scheduled to be sentenced next month. A fifth defendant, Ahmed Adil Abdallat, 64, of El Paso, Texas, was sentenced in January to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $116,392 in restitution.

The four men worked for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which was split up when the Homeland Security Department was created in 2002. Cliff Landsman, the defunct agency’s assistant commissioner for intelligence, said he was stunned by his former employees’ actions.

“I’m as surprised as everyone else. Never in a million years did I think something like that would happen,” said Landsman, who retired from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005. “It’s very distressing to me  even though it happened long after my tenure as their boss   that they engaged in something of this nature and of this magnitude.”

Prosecutors sought a lenient sentence for Rollerson — she faced up to two years in prison  because once the scheme came to light, she admitted her role early in the investigation and agreed to cooperate with the government.

The scheme began in May 2008, months after Woosley had returned to Washington, with his first falsified  and inflated  travel voucher.

By that time, Rollerson and Woosley already were living together. They shared a rented three-bedroom apartment in Alexandria, Va., with two other contractors, including Henderson, a retired INS intelligence employee who was working as an intelligence analyst for a government contractor.

Woosley had reached out to old colleagues, including Henderson, and helped them get assigned or detailed to Washington. Woosley also got a job with the contractor, SRA International, for another former colleague who had retired from the U.S. Customs Service. He did the same for Rollerson.

A month later, Woosley, Rollerson and Henderson decided to buy a boat using $5,000 from a travel advance Henderson would obtain. Eventually, Woosley brought Korn, an ICE intelligence research specialist based in Tucson, and Abdallat, who did intelligence work in El Paso, to Washington.

Woosley, Rollerson and Korn agreed to rent another apartment and used Korn’s travel vouchers with inflated lodging claims to cover rent and utilities, according to court records. Henderson and the other contract employee also moved into the house.

Abdallat, who was detailed to Washington more than 10 times, claimed lodging, meals and other expenses while staying rent-free with a girlfriend. He was paid $116,392, of which he kicked back about $58,000 to Woosley and Rollerson. Korn submitted fraudulent expenses that totaled more than $50,000.

In an April letter to the judge, Korn said he knew what he was doing was wrong and eventually refused to file more fake vouchers. Korn wrote that he took part to stay in the good graces of his former boss, but he never knew the full extent of the scheme.

“Mr. Woosley was a master at compartmentalizing his affairs,” he wrote.

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Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.