An former government official whose job used to be reporting improper conduct at the Department of Homeland Security has been indicted by federal authorities in an alleged scheme to defraud the government and steal federal workers' private information.
According to a Department of Justice news release from Friday, former former acting Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security Charles Edwards and his former subordinate Murali Yamazula Venkata have been indicted on 16 counts "for their alleged theft of proprietary software and confidential databases from the U.S. government as part of a scheme to defraud the U.S. government."
The release goes on to say that "from October 2014 to April 2017, Edwards, Venkata, and others executed a scheme to defraud the U.S. government by stealing confidential and proprietary software from DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), along with sensitive government databases containing personal identifying information (PII) of DHS and USPS employees, so that Edwards's company, Delta Business Solutions, could later sell an enhanced version of DHS-OIG's software to the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at a profit."
The charges against the two include "conspiracy to commit theft of government property and to defraud the United States, theft of government property, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft," according to the Justice Department.
The indictment also says that, "Venkata and others also assisted Edwards by reconfiguring his laptop so that he could properly upload the stolen software and databases, provided troubleshooting support whenever Edwards required it, and helped him build a testing server at his residence with the stolen software and databases."
Edwards — who started working as acting inspector general starting in 2011 — stepped down from the DHS watchdog post in December 2013 amid a storm of questions about his conduct in the position.
"The litany of allegations against Edwards included claims that he bowed to political pressure and watered down his reports; abused agency personnel and resources; and retaliated against employees who questioned his conduct," according to Fox News at the time.
However, after leaving DHS, the DOJ release says, Edwards "continued to leverage his relationship with Venkata and other DHS-OIG employees to steal the software and the sensitive government databases."
According to an investigative report from the Washington Post, the affected software and databases contained the personal information of over 250,000 government workers.
The Department of Justice also notes that an indictment is nothing more an allegation and "all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."