This article also appeared in the Washington Post.

A former intelligence analyst with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pleaded guilty Thursday in Federal District Court in El Paso to stealing at least $70,000 from the government as part of a travel receipt scheme and using a diplomatic passport for personal trips to the Middle East.

Ahmed Adil Abdallat, 64, admitted to two counts of misuse of a diplomatic passport and one count of conversion of public money as part of a plea agreement, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman. Six other counts related to passport misuse were dismissed. Abdallat was arrested in February.

Abdallat admitted that he submitted 13 travel vouchers between February 2009 and September 2010 and received $116,392.34 in reimbursements for lodging, car rentals and other expenses that included fraudulent receipts.

FBI Special Agent Shannon E. Enochs testified at a March bond hearing that, for example, Abdallat would stay with a friend for a month but submitted fake statements that he lodged at a hotel. He submitted one claim for more than $6,000.

Though an exact amount has yet to be calculated, Abdallat agreed that the government’s loss was between $70,000 and $120,000.

He also used his diplomatic passport for personal travel to and from Jordan on two occasions between 2007 and late 2010. Abdallat, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is a native of Jordan and served in the Air Force there, reaching the rank of colonel. As an ICE analyst, he was formerly stationed in the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh.

Abdallat’s plea is the latest development in a federal probe of a travel voucher kickback scheme that involves at least two other ICE employees, including the agency’s former acting intelligence chief, James M. Woosley.

“ICE takes these matters very seriously and we fully cooperated with the investigation that led to Mr. Abdallat’s conviction,” ICE Spokesman Brian P. Hale said. He declined to comment on Woosley or any other employee. Abdallat was fired in June.

The probe spans from El Paso to Washington, according to a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing matter. The investigation is one of several corruption and misconduct cases in recent months involving staff of ICE, which employs more than 20,000 people.

Steve Kucan, 48, a former supervisory special agent in Manhattan responsible for office supplies and equipment, admitted in Federal District Court in New Jersey last week to stealing government property and selling it on eBay.

Late last month, Anthony Mangione, 51, the special agent in charge of ICE’s South Florida office, was arrested on federal charges of possessing and distributing child pornography on the Internet.

Federal agents in June arrested Jovana Samaniego Deas, a 33-year-old ICE special agent in Nogales, Ariz., on suspicion of leaking sensitive government documents to family members and others with strong ties to drug traffickers.

Woosley, the highest-ranking ICE employee ensnared in the probe, was placed on administrative leave Feb. 4 and then resigned late last month, a Department of Homeland Security official confirmed. His assistant, Leticia Rollerson, has also quit. Neither has been arrested or publicly charged. Enochs testified that the other ICE employees were subject to proceedings in another jurisdiction.

“Mr. Abdallat was working with at least two other individuals in Washington, D.C., one of them being the Acting Assistant Director of Intelligence, James Woosley,” the FBI agent testified. “Basically, he was the approver for Mr. Abdallat to go to Washington, D.C.”

He said that Abdallat had sent an estimated $58,000 back to other ICE employees in Washington who were involved in the scheme, including Woosley and Rollerson.
Daryl Fields, spokesman for the U.S. attorneys’ office for the Western District of Texas, said the plea agreement remains under seal. Phone calls to Abdallat’s attorney, Mary Stillinger, were not returned. Woosley and Rollerson could not be reached for comment.

Abdallat, who remains in custody, faces up to 10 years in prison. The amount of restitution will be determined at sentencing. A sentencing date has not been set.

Previous coverage

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.