Secure information on U.S. Department of Homeland Security purchase cards was compromised and used to purchase Starbucks coffee drinks, according to a government investigation launched because of a News4 I-Team report in 2014.
Those questionable purchases were just some of the $30,000 in Starbucks drinks and products bought with Department of Homeland Security purchase cards in one year, according to the I-Team’s October review.
The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on how many of its credit cards have been hacked or stolen but confirmed the theft of card information in 2013 and 2014 and the purchases of Starbucks items with those card numbers.
The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General launched an investigation because of the I-Team’s story and found other examples of “inappropriate” purchases.
The newly released findings of that Inspector General said, in other instances, government cardholders bought drinks for “personal consumption.” Those purchases were later ordered to be reimbursed, auditors said.
Former federal prosecutor and auditor Brian Miller said both findings are troubling.
“We shouldn't tolerate it," Miller said. "When people are running out and making personal purchases at Starbucks with a federal purchase card, that's unacceptable."
In other cases, the coffee was bought in bulk to stock Coast Guard ships, according to the government audit.
“This may give the appearance that cardholders are not seeking lower priced options based on personal preference,” government investigators said.
Miller said the theft of agency credit card information was most troubling.
“With something like credit card information getting into the wrong hands, I'd think they'd want to get (better) internal controls in place right away," he said.
“(The agency) continues to monitor these cards to ensure they are used only in accordance with Department policy,” a Homeland Security spokesman said. “The Department of Homeland Security takes seriously its obligation to be a responsible steward of taxpayer funds."
The chairman of a U.S. House Oversight subcommittee also ordered the agency to review its Starbucks purchases after watching the 2014 report by the News4 I-Team.