The FBI's Washington field office is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying public corruption in Northern Virginia, the agency announced late Tuesday.
As the FBI’s number one criminal investigative priority, public corruption occurs when a public official, at any level of government – local, state or federal – does any official act in exchange for money, or other free goods or services, for private gain.
Public corruption could also include public employees who take something of value for their own personal gain, thereby violating the public’s trust. Public corruption hits at the heart of what a government is supposed to do: serve its people.
Public corruption is often the result of agreements made in whispered conversations and sealed with quick handshakes, the FBI noted in its news release.
The secretive nature of the crime makes it difficult to detect without the assistance of concerned citizens. Many of the FBI’s investigations into public corruption begin with a tip from someone who encounters corruption. Therefore, the public’s willingness to come forward and report abuse of public office is essential to the FBI’s investigations.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office has a dedicated squad of agents that investigate allegations of public corruption in Northern Virginia. To help identify potential criminal activity, the Washington Field Office has set up a Northern Virginia Public Corruption Hotline at 703-686-6225 and e-mail at: NOVAPC@ic.fbi.gov.
While the vast majority of public officials are honest in their work and committed to serving their fellow citizens, unfortunately, a small percentage of public officials abuse their office and the position which they were sworn to uphold. Examples of corruption, where bribery and/or kickbacks occur in exchange for official action, could include public corruption committed by:
o Government officials such as DMV employees, city inspectors, taxing or zoning assessors or other regulatory agency employees, or even town councils or mayors;
o Contracting officials at all levels, including those who manage government contracts or regulatory permits; or, school resource officers who manage school accounts;
o Local officials colluding with real estate investors to rig the bidding process at foreclosure auctions;
o A person representing the judicial branch - a judge, member of the jury or court personnel; or,
o A person representing law enforcement, who steals drugs from criminals, embezzles government funds, falsifies records or smuggles contraband.
Two recent examples of public corruption investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which includes jurisdiction over Northern Virginia, are a DMV employee and two others who pled guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for DMV documents for illegal aliens who were otherwise not eligible; and a chief of a volunteer fire department who pled guilty to theft from a program that received federal funds. Such examples of public corruption erode the public’s confidence and undermine the strength of our government.