A former assistant to an acting intelligence chief for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pleaded guilty yesterday for her part in an unfolding travel voucher kickback scheme that defrauded the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Lateisha M. Rollerson, 38, of Bowie, Md., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington to one count of conversion of government money, according to court records. Rollerson is the former assistant to James M. Woosley, who resigned last year from his post as the top intelligence official for the agency.
From June 2008 to February 2011, Rollerson, with the assistance of other employees, submitted fraudulent travel advances, fake vouchers for expenses such as hotel lodging, and false time and attendance claims totaling $295,866, according to a statement of offense document filed with the court as part of a plea agreement. All told, the scheme has defrauded the government of more than $504,000.
Rollerson also fabricated receipts for trips she and her boss did not take and claimed they worked, including overtime, when in fact they had not. Between the two of them, Rollerson and her supervisor, who is not named in court records, falsely claimed expenses and work time that cost the government more than $250,000.
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Rollerson also made fake receipts for travel vouchers for her supervisor’s son, who worked as a contract employee for the agency. The son is not named in court records. Rollerson, the supervisor and the son accepted more than $96,000 in kickbacks from agency employees involved in the scheme.
Three other former employees already have pleaded guilty to their involvement, according to court records. The scheme involves at least seven ICE employees and contractors in total, including Rollerson’s unnamed supervisor, the supervisor’s son and another unnamed contract employee from Oklahoma. An ICE official said investigators are looking at five or more people in addition to the seven.
Since it became public in February 2011, the investigation has shaken the ICE intelligence office, spurring a top-to-bottom internal review, new office leadership and added training. The office has about 450 employees and an $81.5 million budget this year.
Rollerson, who was charged March 2, faces a likely sentence of one to two years in prison, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. A sentencing date is set for June 7. As part of a plea agreement, Rollerson agreed to forfeit the money she fraudulently obtained.
Her attorney, Robert C. Bonsib, declined to comment on the guilty plea, but previously wrote in an e-mail that his client "is a wonderful person caught up in an unfortunate situation."
The other three convicted employees are all former intelligence workers. Ahmed Adil Abdallat, 64, a former ICE supervisory intelligence research specialist, was sentenced in January in El Paso, Texas, to a year and a day in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $116,392.84. William J. Korn, 53, a former intelligence research specialist, pleaded guilty in December. Stephen E. Henderson, 61, a former ICE contractor, pleaded guilty in January. Henderson and Korn are scheduled to be sentenced April 24 and May 18, respectively.
Neither Woosley nor his son, Chad, who was also employed by ICE, has been arrested, charged or named by prosecutors. Chad Woosley was fired by ICE in March 2011, a few months after the agency hired him. He had worked previously as a contract employee.
James Woosley’s attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., declined to comment. Chad Woosley could not be reached for comment.
James Woosley and Rollerson resigned last fall within weeks of each other. Both had been on administrative leave. James Woosley held various posts over his 28-year career in federal law enforcement, including assignments in Washington, El Paso and Los Angeles. He was named acting intelligence chief in June 2009.
According to court records, in January 2007, Rollerson met the unnamed supervisor with whom she “developed a close, personal relationship.”
Rollerson was hired in May 2008 as a contract intelligence reports writer before she joined the agency in December 2008. She worked in the unnamed supervisor’s chain of command before she began to report directly to the supervisor in Washington in February 2009. She lived in Virginia, often with the supervisor, the court record shows.
In July 2009, the supervisor bought a house in Stafford, Va., into which Rollerson, along with the supervisor, his two sons and Henderson, moved. Rollerson lived there until December 2010.
The scheme began in June 2008 when Henderson, then based in Tucson, Ariz., but on a temporary assignment to Washington, asked Rollerson to create fraudulent hotel receipts for a travel voucher to pay back a travel advance from his company, the court document shows. The supervisor approved the request.
Rollerson then made fraudulent receipts on her computer for Henderson from June 2008 through October 2010 that totaled $54,387.62, of which $21,799 was kicked back to the ICE supervisor and Rollerson, court record shows. That money, in turn, was used to make various payments, including the purchase of a boat for the ICE supervisor.
After she made the first fake receipts, Rollerson went on to falsify other records, including receipts for the supervisor, Abdallat, an unnamed contract employee and the supervisor’s son for expenses such as vehicle rentals and hotel lodging. She also inflated fees and costs on legitimate receipts.
Rollerson created at least two companies that received kickbacks from other agency employees involved in the scheme, interviews and records show. Along with the younger Woosley, Rollerson was listed as a managing member of a limited liability company called Executive Security Forces that was registered in 2010, Florida Secretary of State records show. She also used her government e-mail address to conduct business.
Abdallat, the El Paso-based former intelligence worker, wrote personal checks to the two companies as part of the embezzlement ploy, his attorney, Mary Stillinger, said. He also on three occasions paid the mortgage for a home Woosley owned, the attorney said.
Rollerson also registered another company, Lifeskillz Support LLC, in Florida, Georgia and Maryland. Along with Chad Woosley, she is listed as a co-organizer of a Kentucky limited liability company, CLJ Enterprises, registered in July 2011 by James Woosley, Kentucky Secretary of State records show.