(CBS News) WASHINGTON - On the heels of the government's embarrassing involving the General Services Administration, or GSA, comes word that a high-ranking Homeland Security official has pleaded guilty in a travel fraud ring that defrauded taxpayers out of at least $600,000.
Forty-eight-year old James Woosley headed Intelligence for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under Homeland Security (DHS). Justice Department officials say that, among other crimes, Woosley faked expense reports for more than a dozen trips, and helped others do the same in exchange for kickbacks. Woosley used $5,000 of the taxpayer's money to buy a boat, and nearly $16,000 for a real estate investment.
Officials say Woosley got help from several ICE employees, including his personal assistant Lateisha Rollerson with whom he developed "a close, personal relationship." The two lived together and often traveled together on business trips. Rollerson pleaded guilty earlier to creating the fraudulent travel vouchers and documents to support Woosley's fake expenses.
In some instances, other ICE employees stayed at Woosley's Virginia home when travelling to Washington, D.C. on business, then created false hotel receipts. Woosley then took a kickback from their receipts.
Woosley "abused his sensitive position of trust to fleece the government by submitting phony paperwork for and taking kickbacks from subordinates who were also on the take," said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, Jr. who helped prosecute the case.
Besides Rollerson and Woosley, three others also plead guilty earlier in the scheme. They include ICE supervisory intelligence research specialist 64-year old Ahmen Adil Abdallat, ICE intelligence research specialist 53-year old William Korn, and ICE contractor 61-year old Stephen Henderson.
Woosley faces 18-27 months in prison and a fine. He has agreed to forfeit the stolen money.