An anonymous whistleblower alleges that some administrative staff at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have received fraudulent bonuses.
According to an October 5 article and interview from CBS News, the whistleblower, who has come forward only as Joe, claims that some individuals serving in administrative roles at ATF “were paid a special bonus known as law enforcement availability pay, or LEAP, even though they did not qualify.”
Joe joined the department in 2016 and told CBS News that he observed issues at the ATF “almost immediately after he began working there.” Joe worked as an information specialist in the Human Resources department and said in an interview, “I had to maintain the integrity of the information that went into the system.”
“If you were functioning in an administrative capacity, you don’t qualify for the pay. So you’re not supposed to get it,” Joe said about the LEAP bonus. “A lot of people were getting it.” He explained that the pay raise for the LEAP pay was 25%. “So if you were making $100,000 and you got LEAP, you would get $125,000.”
In the interview, investigative reporter Catherine Herridge explained that LEAP is “reserved for criminal investigators who are on call and expected to work unscheduled, additional hours.”
Joe told Herridge that he alerted his supervisors to the alleged violations. “An ATF email reviewed by CBS News indicates Joe’s supervisors were ‘upset’ about what he told them,” the article states.
Joe also shared with CBS News personnel records that show his performance reviews dropping from “fully successful” to “minimally successful” after he made a complaint about the fraudulent pay. “He lost his job last summer for ‘unacceptable performance,’” CBS News reports.
“Don’t look over there. Just because you see someone stealing money out of the ATM, you don’t have to say anything,” Joe said when asked about the message this experience sent him.
Officials from different parts of the government have already commented on Joe’s allegations. “Last year, a lawyer for the Office of Special Counsel said the investigative body found ‘a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing.’” Additionally, an audit conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) “concluded at least 94 employees were inappropriately classified.” After the audit, OPM “‘suspended’ the ATF’s ability to create certain jobs for ‘no less than six months.’” providing the rationale that the ATF “may have engaged in ‘prohibited personnel practices.’”
CBS News reports that “[f]our federal agencies involved in Joe’s case declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation.” The article also says that an email from the Office of Special Counsel states that “the final report is delayed, citing ‘broad implications’ for the ATF.”
“Why did you decide to speak up?” Herridge asked Joe in the interview. “’Cause it was wrong,” Joe responded.