Posted: Jan 17, 2013 6:54 PM
Updated: Jan 17, 2013 6:54 PM
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) A former U.S. Homeland Security agent pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to fake investigative records, and details released during the hearing in Brownsville suggest he falsified documents at the urging of his supervisor.
Wayne Ball was a former special agent with the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General's Office in McAllen. He was accused of falsifying records in an investigation into a customs officer suspected of aiding in drug and human trafficking.
A gap in investigative activity in that case combined with an upcoming internal review of his office apparently led Ball's supervisor to order the deception. Prosecutors believe that Ball initially suggested that a new agent focus on the case, but that his supervisor wanted documents that falsely suggested past work had been.
Prosecutors said they are not identifying the supervisor or the other agent because they haven't been charged.
Ball's plea agreement requires his future cooperation with prosecutors, and Ball "looks forward to this process and his opportunity at redemption for the mistake he has made," said his attorney, Carlos A. Garcia.
Ball, 40, was charged Monday with signing and backdating falsified reports. He and unidentified others were accused of conspiring before an internal agency review to fake records to show investigative work had been done. He worked at the McAllen office between 2009 and 2012.
The Inspector General's Office is responsible for investigating the various branches of the Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.
Internal corruption, especially at the border, has been an ongoing challenge for the agency as the federal presence swelled in recent years, particularly of the Border Patrol. For example, during a six month period in 2011, the Inspector General's Office reported it had initiated 715 investigations and had 2,564 open investigations at the time.
The McAllen office investigates cases ranging from violations of agency policies to criminal activity.
According to details released in court Thursday, in late August or early September 2011, Ball's supervisor called him into a conference room where he was meeting with another agent. The supervisor expressed concern about a gap on the case when no investigative activity had occurred.
Ball suggested that the other agent, who was recently assigned the case, actually do some investigation and document it. But the supervisor rejected that idea, because it would not fill the lengthy gap that already existed. Instead, the supervisor said he wanted false documents prepared to show activity that hadn't actually occurred, according to court documents released Thursday.
Prosecutors said the other agent, who had not even completed his training and been assigned cases during that period, refused to say that he had done the work, but at the supervisor's urging agreed to prepare false records. Ball, who had worked in the office at the time, agreed to sign and backdate them.
Ball was the first to be charged in the investigation that began in late 2011, after the internal review.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane set a $50,000 unsecured bond for Ball. He told Ball he could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Ball's sentencing was tentatively scheduled for April, but prosecutor Timothy Kelly said he did not anticipate Ball's cooperation being complete by then.