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USMS responses lead to more questions

Criminal Asset ForfeitureFrom Press Release


Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today called for a better explanation of certain spending practices within the U.S. Marshals Service’s Asset Forfeiture Division. The request follows incomplete and potentially misleading responses to questions Grassley raised in March surrounding the alleged purchase of lavish office furnishings and facilities that go unused for large parts of the year.

Some of USMS’ responses to Grassley’s inquiries do not match related material obtained by the Judiciary Committee and raise new questions about potentially wasteful spending practices. In a letter to Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Grassley requested a better explanation for a number of concerns including the following:
• Despite USMS’ claim that renovations to an Arlington, Va. office took place in 2009, records show that the Asset Forfeiture Division was paying to install new wallpaper, chair rails and crown molding during the 2013 government shutdown.
• USMS’ purchase of a $22,000 conference table, which it claims was from the “lowest offeror in a competitive procurement,” is nearly 10 times the cost of the most expensive conference table in a federal procurement product list.
• USMS claims that its training facility in Houston cost $1,780,600 and was used for 33.5 days in Fiscal Year 2014, but information obtained by the Committee shows that the facility may have actually cost $2,164,700 and was only used for 31.5 days during that same period. The multimillion-dollar facility apparently went unused for the remainder of the year, and the USMS has not provided information on the facility’s monthly rent or operation expenses.
• USMS refuses to provide the cost of 57 square-feet of granite that whistleblowers claim was purchased without regard for price.
• USMS claims that officials who approved these expenditures retired years ago, but it appears to the Committee that many who likely have approval authority remain employed by the agency.
• USMS cannot certify with any confidence that it is complying with statutes governing the use of funds authorized only to reimburse state and local law enforcement officers who participate in joint operations with federal agencies.