Semiannual Report to Congress

October 1, 2004–March 31, 2005
Office of the Inspector General

U.S. Marshals Service

USMS logo

The USMS protects more than 2,000 federal judges and other members of the federal judiciary, transports federal prisoners, protects endangered federal witnesses, manages assets seized from criminal enterprises, and pursues and arrests federal fugitives. The Director and Deputy Director work with 94 U.S. Marshals, each appointed by the President or the Attorney General, to direct the work of approximately 4,800 employees at more than 350 locations throughout the 50 states, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.

Reports Issued

The USMS’s Administration of the Witness Security Program

The USMS provides for the security, health, and safety of non-incarcerated Witness Security Program (WITSEC) participants. Since 1970, the USMS has protected, relocated, and given new identities to more than 7,500 witnesses and more than 9,600 family members or associates. The objectives of this OIG audit were to evaluate the USMS’s plans and strategies to achieve WITSEC’s security objectives; the program’s controls for witness safety; and its internal controls for financial activities, including payments to protected witnesses and their families.

An OIG survey of 300 WITSEC program participants revealed that they felt a high degree of satisfaction with the program. A high percentage of the survey respondents reported that security measures were adequate to protect them and their families and that they had not experienced problems under the program that could have been avoided.

However, our audit identified numerous weaknesses in need of correction, including: 1) declining staff levels in relation to an increasing witness population, 2) significant involvement of WITSEC operational staff in non-WITSEC protective assignments, 3) failure to ensure proper completion of secrecy agreements by individuals who work in WITSEC, 4) failure to ensure timely completion of preliminary interviews with prospective witnesses, 5) morale problems stemming from the low grade level of WITSEC inspectors, 6) the need for an employment specialist at USMS Headquarters to assist local WITSEC staff in securing jobs for relocated participants, 7) continuing weaknesses in financial management practices and the management information system, and 8) weak management oversight of the program.

Our report contained 21 recommendations to improve the management of WITSEC, including to install and utilize communications equipment at additional sites to reduce travel and in-person meetings required of program participants, and improve the management oversight of WITSEC through quarterly inspections of field offices and requiring that periodic cash counts are performed by field staff. The USMS agreed to implement corrective measures for 20 of the recommendations.

Background Investigations of USMS Employees and Contractors

The OIG reviewed the USMS’s program for conducting background investigations of job applicants and periodic reinvestigations of its employees and contractors. We found that the USMS placed employees and contractors in national security or public trust positions only after the background field investigation was completed or it had issued a waiver in accordance with federal regulations and USMS policy. However, we identified several deficiencies in the USMS’s background investigation program:

  • The USMS lacked current, written policies and procedures to guide the adjudicators who evaluate investigation results;

  • The USMS relied on databases that were inadequate to monitor and assess its background investigation process;

  • Investigations were slow, and neither investigations nor adjudications were consistently thorough;

  • USMS field managers sometimes rejected the adjudicators’ recommendations without providing written justification (a few of the employees hired because of the field managers’ interventions subsequently engaged in significant misconduct);

  • Some required reinvestigations were overdue; and

  • The USMS does not routinely reinvestigate contractors who carry weapons and serve in law enforcement positions.

We made seven recommendations to help the USMS address these deficiencies. Among the recommendations were that the USMS develop written policy and procedures that address all aspects of the background investigation process, implement procedures to improve the accuracy of its databases, and begin conducting background reinvestigations on contractors who carry weapons and have law enforcement responsibilities. The USMS generally concurred with our recommendations.

Intergovernmental Service Agreements For Detention Facilities

The USMS houses more than 47,000 detainees throughout the nation and is responsible for their transportation from the time they are brought into federal custody until they either are acquitted or incarcerated. To house the detainees, the USMS executes contracts known as Intergovernmental Service Agreements (IGA) with state and local governments to rent jail space. According to the USMS, 75 percent of the detainees in USMS custody are detained in state, local, and private facilities.

During this reporting period, we completed audits of two high-dollar IGAs that the USMS awarded to local governments for the housing and transportation of federal detainees. Our audits found:

  • The USMS awarded the Central Virginia Regional Jail (CVRJ) with an IGA to house its prisoners. Our audit determined that the CVRJ’s allowable costs did not support the jail day rate paid for by the USMS. During FYs 2003 and 2004, the USMS could have saved over $2.8 million by paying the audit calculated rate instead of the rate it agreed to. In addition, the USMS could save an additional $1.4 million by paying the audit calculated rate for FY 2005.

  • The USMS awarded the Alexandria, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office with an IGA to house federal prisoners. Our audit determined that the Sheriff’s Office’s records supported the rate used to bill the USMS.


During this reporting period, the OIG received 137 complaints involving the USMS. The most common allegations made against USMS employees included job performance failure, off-duty misconduct, other official misconduct, and use of unnecessary force.

At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 20 open cases of alleged misconduct against USMS employees. The following are examples of cases involving the USMS that the OIG investigated:

  • In October 2004, a news organization published an article reporting that two of its reporters had followed a U.S. marshal for 10 days during a 17-day period in September and October 2004. According to the article, the reporters found that the U.S. marshal rarely worked a full day and had used his assigned government-owned vehicle for personal errands on one occasion. As a result of this article, the OIG examined the U.S. marshal’s work-related activities for a 4-week period that included the 17 days during which the reporters conducted surveillance. We completed our investigation during this reporting period and provided a copy of our report to the USMS and the Deputy Attorney General’s Office, which are in the process of reviewing the findings of the report.

  • An investigation by the OIG determined that a chief deputy U.S. marshal falsely claimed per diem for his family during a permanent change of station transfer. Although he moved alone and resided alone in temporary quarters, the chief deputy claimed living expenses for his wife and children. He resigned from the USMS as a result of the investigation and agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $9,700 in lieu of criminal prosecution on charges of making false, fictitious, or fraudulent claims.

  • An investigation by the OIG’s Detroit Area Office determined that a deputy U.S. marshal frequented a massage parlor during duty hours while using a government vehicle. The deputy U.S. marshal was suspended for 60 days.

Ongoing Work

The USMS’s Fugitive Apprehension Program

The OIG is examining the effectiveness of the USMS’s Fugitive Apprehension Program in apprehending violent fugitives. The review will assess the ability of the USMS, particularly the five Regional Fugitive Task Forces that it operates, to locate and apprehend dangerous fugitives.

The USMS’s Use of Independent Contractors as Guards

The USMS employs thousands of independent contractors for prisoner handling activities. Unlike contracts with guard company vendors, which may be managed by the districts or by USMS headquarters, procurement of independent contractors is a decentralized function in which contracting officers in the districts contract with individuals for the necessary guard services. Independent contractors constitute a core part of the USMS’s workforce in many districts, sometimes accounting for more than 50 percent of the total hours charged to prisoner handling activities. The OIG is assessing the USMS’s internal controls over the procurement of independent contractors for guard service, whether the USMS is adequately monitoring the performance of its independent contract guards, whether independent contractors are meeting the USMS’s experience and fitness-for-duty requirements, and whether independent contractors are performing only authorized duties.

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