U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is working with the Department of Homeland Security on an internal investigation into alleged misconduct involving a "small number" of employees, an agency spokesman said Thursday.
ICE spokesman Brian Hale confirmed the investigation a day after testimony in a Texas courtroom revealed that the agency's top intelligence officer had been suspended amid questions about bogus travel expenses.
An FBI agent said Wednesday that James M. Woosley, the deputy director of intelligence at ICE headquarters in Washington, was placed on administrative leave Feb. 4 amid allegations he helped a subordinate file fraudulent travel expense reports and took some of the cash they generated.
Testimony about Woosley came during a federal detention hearing for ICE intelligence analyst Ahmed Adil Abdallat, who is accused of using a diplomatic passport to make eight personal trips to Jordan since October 2007 and receiving about $123,000 in reimbursements from phony travel expenses.
U.S. Magistrate David C. Guaderrama was to rule later on whether Abdallat would be eligible for bail, but no ruling was made Thursday. Abdallat's attorney, Mary Stillinger, said she expected prosecutors would appeal any bail setting.
Abdallat, 63, is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Jordan. He also is the subject of a larger money laundering investigation after he made three wire transfers worth a combined $570,000 to Jordan over a six month period, according to the FBI. Authorities also linked Abdallat to an additional $1.2 million in Jordanian bank accounts.
Stillinger said Thursday that "it's a little bewildering that they think Mr. Abdallat is such a big flight risk when Mr. Woosley hasn't been arrested."
The telephone number at an address listing for Woosley was unlisted and it was unclear Thursday whether he had an attorney.
FBI Special Agent Shannon N. Enochs testified Wednesday that Woosley approved Abdallat's phony travel expenses and that he and another federal official who worked for Woosley were paid about $58,000 as part of the scheme. He said Woosley was Abdallat's supervisor for "over 10 years." He said Abdallat mailed Woosley checks, wired him money, paid his utility and mortgage bills, and sometimes even traveled to Washington to leave his boss cash in drawers.
Enochs said scrutiny of Abdallat's personal e-mails revealed evidence that Woosley tried to arrange for an official trip to Jordan for Abdallat "around 2009," after Abdallat's mother died. The trip was not approved, and Abdallat ended up paying his own way.
Abdallat was issued a diplomatic passport between 2005 and 2007 after being detailed to the ICE attache at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, Enochs said. About 10 FBI agents raiding his home found 31 stamps in a still-valid diplomatic passport, and Enochs said that while he didn't know how many of those stamps might have represented authorized travel, Abdallat never got clearance to travel to Jordan on official business.
Authorities also seized a personal U.S. passport that had no entry stamps or visas in it, and two expired Jordanian passports, Enochs said.
Woosley was suspended the same day the FBI raided Abdallat's El Paso home and seized at least 29 boxes of evidence.
Associated Press writer Linda Stewart Ball in Dallas contributed to this report.