Former DHS official to pay $10,000 to resolve federal ethics probe

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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON – A former senior official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday agreed to pay $10,000 to resolve civil allegations that he violated federal conflict of interest rules after departing his post in 2016.

The Justice Department said that the settlement with Kenneth J. Buck, the former Executive Director for the DHS Office of Management Integration, also resolves claims under the federal False Claims Act alleging he submitted false invoices that concealed his involvement with a DHS contract after he departed from his government post.

Under federal ethics rules, government employees are subject to post-employment restrictions, including a one-year “cooling off” period. In settling, Buck did not admit liability, and he denied the allegations against him.

The settlement comes at a time when the Department of Homeland Security is already under an ethics cloud.

On April 4, the Secret Service, which is part of DHS, placed four agents on administrative leave pending an investigation into their acceptance of gifts from two men who allegedly posed as DHS agents and offered them gifts including rent-free apartments and iPhones.

The two men accused of providing the gifts and posing as agents – Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, are now facing charges, and a federal prosecutor said on Tuesday that the Justice Department is continuing to investigate whether there was bribery involved.

Separately on Monday, the former Acting Branch Chief for the DHS inspector general’s information technology division, Murali Y. Venkata, was convicted on federal criminal charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S., theft of government property, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and obstruction.

The department’s former Acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards previously pleaded guilty for his role in the alleged scheme in January 2022, and another former DHS inspector general staffer also pleaded in April 2019.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)