Government investigators have caught at least 35 federal workers illegally using taxpayer-funded credit cards to purchase gasoline for their own personal vehicles in the past year, according to a review by the News4 I-Team.
The thefts totaled more than $300,000. Many of them surfaced after an early 2015 investigation by the I-Team showed a series of similar cases were being prosecuted nationwide. The newly reported thefts also reveal the continued vulnerability of the tens of thousands of federally issued government fleet cards.
General Services Administration Inspector General special agent Eric Radwick said his office has uncovered fleet card misuse throughout the country, not exclusively in the Washington, D.C., region.
“It’s the taxpayer money,” Radwick said. “It’s not for a government employee’s (car) and his family’s.”
Several cases that surfaced this summer were uncovered in the Washington metropolitan area. Arlington National Cemetery employee Bobby Jackson pleaded guilty to more than $5,000 in fraudulent gas purchases. Investigators indicated Jackson, who lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, might have used some of that gasoline for his personal Lincoln Navigator. A judge sentenced Jackson to two years’ probation and nine days in jail in July.
In a separate case filed in federal court this summer, investigators with the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General accused an employee of the Washington Navy Yard with making more than $3,000 in fraudulent gas purchases with his government card. The man made the buys at a series of gas stations near his home in Temple Hills, Maryland. His card was issued for him to use fueling his Naval District Washington vehicle. Investigators said they reviewed surveillance footage, which showed the man instead fueling a personal car when swiping his government gas card.
GSA Inspector General special agents conduct undercover surveillance to catch suspected gas thieves in the act of stealing, Radwick said. His team also has access to a confidential database of federal fleet card purchases, which list every purchase of taxpayer-funded gasoline made with a GSA government fleet card.
"Generally we don't catch (thieves) on the first tank," Radwick said. "They've been doing it for a bit."
David Williams, director of the D.C.-based Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said federal inspectors general, who help police and root out gasoline theft, should receive budget increases to better do so. Williams said every dollar spent on a federal inspector general’s office has the potential of saving $12 to $20 in eliminated waste and fraud.