Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents involved in the prostitution scandal in Colombia were rewarded with bonuses as high as $32,000, according to a new report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The regional director, who did not report to DEA management that his subordinates were throwing "sex parties" with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels in Cartagena, Colombia, received nearly $70,000. Half of the 10 agents who were investigated also received bonuses.
"Our review found there were 20 award requests made in connection with the 14 individuals described in our report," the OIG audit said, referencing its first audit that detailed the prostitution scandal in March. "Although none of the 14 individuals received promotions, we found that in 10 instances, 8 employees received bonuses, awards, or other favorable personnel actions, contrary to DEA policy."
DEA policy bars employees from receiving bonuses for three years following discipline for "significant misconduct" or while an investigation is ongoing.
"We also found three instances in which there was no documentation reflecting the basis for going forward with a favorable personnel action under these circumstances and seven instances in which the DEA followed policy for these employees," the OIG said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) requested the OIG examine whether agents involved in the prostitution scandal were promoted or received bonuses. Goodlatte said the OIG’s findings were troubling.
"Today’s Inspector General report raises serious concerns about the disciplinary process at the Drug Enforcement Administration," Goodlatte said. "Not only did the agents involved in sexual misconduct outlined in a previous report escape appropriate punishment, the majority of them received bonuses or other work perks."
"This is unacceptable and I expect leadership at the DEA to fix its disciplinary process so that instances such as these never happen again in the future," he said.
The amount of bonuses received by agents involved in the scandal ranged from $1,500 to nearly $32,000. The regional director, who handled the matter internally instead of reporting the misconduct to the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), received a $31,938.80 bonus in May 2013.
The director himself became the subject of an OPR investigation and was punished only with a "counseling session."
"Thus, because the DEA does not consider ‘counseling’ to constitute formal discipline, it appears that the DEA’s policy generally requiring a 3-year waiting period before an award or promotion can be given to an employee disciplined for ‘significant misconduct’ did not apply to the Regional Director," the OIG said.
The regional director received $68,600 in bonuses between October 2010, when the investigation began, and April 2014.
The review also found that one special agent received a $2,000 bonus while under investigation for patronizing prostitutes and frequenting brothels.
Another special agent "allegedly entertained prostitutes at his government-leased quarters on a frequent basis and on one occasion reportedly assaulted a prostitute."
The DEA began investigating the agent for misconduct in June 2010. One month later, he received a $1,500 bonus.
An assistant regional director also received a $5,000 bonus after receiving a letter of reprimand. The director was accused of making "numerous inappropriate sexual comments," and asking an assistant to "watch pornographic movies."
Goodlatte said his committee would continue to provide oversight over the agency.
"Leadership at the DEA must crack down on bad behavior so that trust is rebuilt with the American people," he said.