From Fraud To Favoritism: The Dark Truth Behind U.S. Capitol Police's Culture

By Jennifer Wentworth | Sunday, 24 March 2024 04:10 PM
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In a disconcerting revelation, a series of investigations and reports have exposed a deep-seated culture of corruption, favoritism, and cover-ups among the leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).

This culture, which has been festering since the late 1990s, has seen high-ranking officials, including assistant chiefs and deputies, embroiled in a variety of misconduct cases, ranging from fraud and forgery to obstruction of justice.

A recent investigation by Blaze Media has shed light on some of the darker aspects of the USCP, painting a picture of an organization where misconduct is not only overlooked but often rewarded. The report states, “Corruption is endemic at the highest levels of the United States Capitol Police.”

Documents obtained by Blaze Media and a former Capitol Police sergeant reveal that several high-ranking USCP officials, including a current deputy chief and an assistant chief, were implicated in a fraudulent overtime pay scheme. This scheme, which defrauded the government of tens of thousands of dollars, led to disciplinary action and potential termination for the involved parties. One of the implicated lieutenants has since left the Capitol Police and is now employed by the U.S. Senate sergeant at arms.

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The scheme involved current USCP Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher and Deputy Chief John Erickson. Rhoda Henderson, a retired USCP sergeant, blew the whistle on the scheme in 2012, bringing the questionable overtime billing to the attention of department officials. “They look out for each other, the higher rank you go,” she told Blaze Media. “To me, it’s always been, ‘I’ll cover up your sins if you cover up mine.’”

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Henderson, in an exclusive interview with Blaze Media, confirmed that the officers involved in the scheme were current USCP Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher, current Deputy Chief John Erickson, and Wendy Colmore, who is now director of central operations for the U.S. Senate sergeant at arms.

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Gallagher, who was a captain with the dignitary protection detail and the alleged “ringleader” of the payroll scheme, had Erickson and Colmore, both lieutenants, under his command. Henderson revealed that the scheme lasted “for at least a year,” and while she wasn’t involved in the audit of the crime, she believes the three officers stole well in excess of $10,000 from the USCP. Initially, USCP authorities doubted her story until she was able to produce the paper trail of the scheme.

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Henderson’s account of the corrupt activity was also featured in a National Journal story. She detailed her experience of uncovering the fraudulent activity, which began nearly two years ago. Henderson, who retired last year after 20 years with the department, believes the money paid out for phony overtime claims exceeds $10,000, though she could not specify the exact amount.

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Henderson recounted how she initially brought the questionable overtime billing by the three supervisors to department officials in the summer of 2012. She provided officials with documentation to back up her claims. "There was no doubt. It was an easy trail to follow," said Henderson, who previously served as a sheriff's deputy in Louisiana.

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While managing the Dignitary Protection Division's overtime pay records, Henderson discovered the scheme. The division is responsible for providing special security for leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, as well as lawmakers who have received violent threats.

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Henderson noticed what appeared to be inappropriate "time shifting" by the supervisors of their overtime hours "behind my back" on their biweekly pay records in January 2010. She said the officers were moving some of their claimed overtime hours from pay periods when they exceeded departmental biweekly caps to other pay periods when the hours were not actually worked.

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"Another employee mentioned to me in an offhand way that the lieutenant had asked her to 'move time,' " Henderson said.

Under departmental rules, annual pay for officers cannot exceed the House speaker's $223,500 base salary, and any two-week amount cannot exceed the speaker's biweekly base salary of about $8,596. The overtime shifting was a way to get around those biweekly caps. But, Henderson said, "a lot of senior officers in the same situation were not doing this." When she discovered the scheme, Henderson said she began to require that special clerical notations be made on the electronic time and attendance records to document what the three supervisors were doing in shifting excess overtime to other pay periods.

When she brought the discrepancies to the higher-ups, Internal Affairs turned the tables, questioning her about why she believed there was an issue. They even suggested that a review could lead to her being blamed for the problem.

After that, she brought the issue to the Inspector General, but did not hear back and the scheme continued, resulting in thousands of dollars being stolen from the USCP. However, it appears there was somewhat of an investigation into the matter.

A USCP memorandum dated July 11, 2013, reveals that when questioned by departmental investigators, then-Captain Gallagher claimed that the scheme was Colmore’s idea. However, Gallagher was the supervisor for both Colmore and Erickson, and Gallagher should have been fully aware of the illegality and violation of department rules represented by this scheme. It would have been his responsibility — even if Colmore’s “idea” — to stop the conspiracy in its tracks. Instead, he fully engaged in the scheme himself, the documents show and a source close to the investigation confirmed.

From the memorandum:

Gallagher is alleged to have forged the name of Daniel B. Malloy, his supervisor, on his overtime pay submissions. He was even careful enough to use ink with different colors from his own signature when faking Malloy's.

Yet, even with the information uncovered during the investigation, Gallagher was not fired. In fact, he was promoted to inspector in 2018.

Yet Gallagher was not fired. Instead, he was supposed to be demoted to lieutenant and ordered to reimburse the department for “all the pay he received as a result of his misconduct.”

How did Gallagher manage to keep his job?

A Capitol Police source close to the investigation who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation said Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine intervened in Gallagher’s case. Dine, who retired in 2015 after a contentious three-year tenure, reassigned the disposition of Gallagher’s discipline to the very supervisor whose name he had forged: Daniel Malloy.

This has also been the case with the other officials mentioned in the report. Instead of facing consequences, many of them were rewarded.

Other reports detail the USCP’s lack of transparency in its operations, pointing to its exemption from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This allows the agency to operate with a level of secrecy not afforded to other law enforcement agencies. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushed for reform within law enforcement after the murder of George Floyd, but have not given the same attention to those tasked with safeguarding the area where government officials make decisions affecting the lives of Americans.

Despite the public outcry for more transparency, none of the lawmakers who serve on committees whose jurisdiction includes the Capitol Police said the force charged with protecting and securing Congress should be subject to the 1966 Freedom of Information Act that requires federal agencies to disclose a large amount of government information to the public.

Congress is not subject to the law, and the Capitol Police, as a component of the legislative branch, is also exempt from any FOIA request.

The USCP has been granted an alarming level of latitude without a requirement to be transparent when it comes to corruption. This history of misconduct, which spans decades, should never be allowed in any government agency.

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