By Kevin Gosztola
An FBI whistleblower alleges he was retaliated against and fired because he reported two pilots serving in the FBI had allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct in addition to a “clear pattern of fraud, waste and abuse over a period of years,” which “cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars” while also “damaging the reputation of the FBI and Justice Department.”
LtCol. John C. Parkinson, who served as a special agent in the FBI as part of a Special Operations Group ground team until he was terminated in October 2010, contends an undercover facility for FBI operations was compromised in 2006 because pilots, Special Agents Steven Broce and Andrew Marshall, allegedly engaged in sexual acts with women, who were brought back to the facility. They also allegedly participated in activities costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars over a period of years. However, supervisors in the FBI apparently looked the other way and did nothing to punish the two pilots.
Parkinson and other colleagues sent a letter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the Justice Department on September 27, 2008. They asked the OIG to investigate Broce and Marshall, who were assigned to the FBI’s Sacramento Division at the time. They informed the OIG that Broce would regularly use “the symbols of his position as an FBI agent, specifically, his gun, badge and official identification” to solicit sex from prostitutes. Broce even, “on at least two occasions,” allegedly left these items behind in brothels.
Since Broce had unrestricted access to an FBI hangar, plane and aviation fuel, Broce used a plane to fly to Reno, Nevada, one night for “the sole purpose of engaging prostitutes in acts of illicit sex.” According to Parkinson, he spent “thousands of tax dollars to fund his prurient interests in prostitution.” Broce also apparently violated FBI and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations by flying alone from California to Nevada, especially because he had “failed multiple check rides and has vision and hearing impairments.”
Marshall was accused of “destroying government property by smashing a hole in the drywall and ripping the security camera cable out of the ceiling, effectively disabling the camera.” This was done to allow for unmonitored access to office space and made it possible for Marshall to view internet pornography on government and personal computers during work hours without being watched.
The OIG initially seemed to be investigating Parkinson’s whistleblower claims, but when targets of the investigation made counter-allegations, the OIG shifted to investigating Parkinson until he was terminated. The OIG did not disclose to Parkinson that he was under investigation until May 2010.
Parkinson is now bringing claims before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which hears appeals involving the violation of civil service employee rights. (Normally, the MSPB would not have jurisdiction over FBI agents, but he can bring his case before the MSPB because he is what is called preference eligible veteran because he has served in the US Marine Corps Reserve.)
Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who is litigating Parkinson’s case before the MSPB this week, said, “This is what happens to intelligence professionals who go through the proper channels. Parkinson did everything by the book. He went to the Inspector General and yet he still ended up fired.”
In 2006, according to a court filing shown to Firedoglake, the ground team apparently found that Broce and Marshall had left the undercover facility’s door unlocked. The lights had not been turned off. Evidence of sexual acts, including stains and hair, was left on furniture in the facility. The facility was compromised and it was believed that the pilots’ sexual acts were responsible.
The ground team had to find a new warehouse that could be used as an undercover facility for operations. Parkinson recommended that the new site be bifurcated so that the pilots could not access the ground team’s side and the ground team could not access the pilots’ side. He was in charge of much of the coordination that was necessary to complete a build-out of the new facility. It was finished in 2007.
The misconduct did not cease and Parkinson and other colleagues in the ground team met with Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) Gregory Cox in February 2008. They expressed concerns that Broce and Marshall were allegedly engaged in misconduct that included massive time and attendance fraud. They also accused Broce of misusing an FBI aircraft to “solicit prostitutes in Nevada” and accused Marshall of “viewing pornography on FBI computers” and destroying an FBI security camera at the undercover facility. But, despite the fact that Cox had an obligation to report the misconduct to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), he took no action to punish Broce or Marshall. He apparently later denied hearing anything about Broce and Marshall’s alleged misconduct at the meeting.
Supervisory Special Agent Leticia Lucero informed Parkinson in spring 2008 that the pilots were going to be given access to the ground team’s side of the undercover facility. Parkinson also learned Cox and Lucero were planning to have him reassigned.
According to Radack, Parkinson grew concerned Marshall and Broce would “defile the furniture by engaging in sexual activity or masturbating on it,” while watching pornography on the television. This was because this is what had happened at the prior undercover facility. So, Parkinson arranged for furniture to be moved to another warehouse where it would be kept safe from being stained by any sexual acts.
In August 2008, Parkinson was involuntarily reassigned off of the squad and Cox and Lucero issued an “adverse performance appraisal” against him. He then took his concerns about retaliation in the workplace to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office, which forwarded his claims of retaliation to the Justice Department’s OIG.
Cox, Lucero and Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Drew Parenti were all named as subjects of a whistleblower reprisal investigation. Yet, when OIG investigators sat down to talk with Cox, Lucero and Parenti they made counter-allegations that were filed with OPR, which accused Parkinson of misusing “$77,000 in government funds.”
The accusation related to the furniture he had relocated. Couches, side chairs, a conference table with six matching chairs, had been moved to prevent Broce and Marshall from defiling the furniture during illicit sexual acts. However, a few of the chairs were bought with FBI funds. He had thought they were the warehouse owner’s and could be moved. Yet, the FBI claimed they had rights to the furniture under a lease agreement and alleged Parkinson had stolen chairs.
The claims were made after supervisors were subject to an investigation that they retaliated against Parkinson. Prior to the retaliation investigation, there were no allegations that Parkinson had misused funds.
David Loftus, an OIG investigator, met with Parkinson throughout 2009 and early 2010. Parkinson believed this was all related to his whistleblower complaint. Later, Parkinson told Loftus he was concerned that Cox, Lucero and Parenti were engaged in a retaliation investigation against him for filing a whistleblower reprisal complaint and for also reporting that Broce and Marshall had engaged in misconduct.
The letter sent to the Justice Department’s OIG clearly outlined the alleged misconduct of both Broce and Marshall. It alleges that, when Broce was assigned to ”left his handgun in a brothel and did not regain control of his handgun for approximately 24 hours.” Broce “had to pay extortion money to the prostitute in the amount of $500.00 in order to regain possession of his handgun.” About twenty years later, Broce left his FBI identification in a brothel in Reno, Nevada. (The letter, published with permission, can be read in its entirety here.)
Broce also allegedly abused access to vehicles procured with US taxpayer money but which were not registered to the United States government to continue a “pattern of engaging prostitutes during government work hours, often during evening shifts,” which he was “known for being especially eager to work.”
The letter described an incident in Lodi, California, where Broce was stopped by local law enforcement. The officer that stopped him allegedly noticed he had a local prostitute with him in a government vehicle. Broce informed the officer he was an FBI agent. The officer did not let Broce leave and notified his sergeant that he had stopped an agent. The FBI “handled the matter” and no police report was filed.
Broce apparently decided one prostitute was not enough. After he was stopped, Broce allegedly used a government vehicle and fuel that was charged on a government charged car to travel over forty miles from Sacramento and engage a “second prostitute for the evening in violation of California state criminal law.”
The FBI pilot was “never charged, nor was his access to a variety of government vehicles with false plates ever curtailed by the FBI,” Parkinson and other colleagues added.
The letter also accused Marshall of abusing his access to the FBI’s airplane hangar for years by utilizing it as his own personal storage facility, where he would keep “his recreation vehicle, camping trailer, bicycles, furniture and household goods.” They took up substantial space and Parkinson and other colleagues estimated the storage cost taxpayers approximately $25,000 a year.
Marshall allegedly exploited his position in the FBI to “intimidate members of the public.” When he gained control of the Rocklin, California, Boy Scout Troop, he took out a restraining order against two scout moms, “who refused to be intimidated by the fact that he was an FBI agent.” He took over the troop as Scout Master “to advance his son to Eagle Scout.”
Parkinson and other colleagues further suggested Marshall had “anger management problems compounded by habitual alcohol use,” which the FBI ignored. They also detailed how Broce and Marshall would clock in to make it appear they were working but would then go home. There was a security camera that would have detected how they were defrauding taxpayers, but that was the security camera Marshall allegedly destroyed. And when Parkinson sent the letter, the security camera had not been replaced, even though the incident had happened well over a year ago.
“The seemingly unchecked activities of Mr. Broce and Mr. Marshall could not withstand public scrutiny at a time when our nation’s economy has left many Americans struggling to pay their monthly payments on their cars, much less for the fuel to operate them,” Parkinson and the other colleagues concluded. “The taxpayers have little tolerance for government employees like Mr. Broce and Mr. Marshall, who are each being paid over $120,000 per year, only to spend a great deal of their time defrauding the American public. This fact, compounded by the hypocrisy of using their positions as federal law enforcement officers to violate the laws they are sworn to uphold, can only diminish public confidence in the FBI and US Department of Justice.”
It is not unclear how much of a problem the FBI has with agents soliciting prostitutes with FBI resources or how many agents bring prostitutes back to undercover facilities to have sex that could put the security of the facilities at risk. However, previously, in September 2012, Sen. Grassley sought answers from then-FBI director Robert Mueller about taxpayer dollars being spent on prostitutes for an FBI agent and several “cooperating witnesses” in the Philippines. Many of the prostitutes were believed to have been minors. No charges were filed against the agent.
When asked to comment on the nature of Parkinson’s termination or the allegations Parkinson had made against the two FBI pilots, Paul Bresson of the FBI National Press Office responded, “As you might imagine, we neither comment on nor even confirm the existence of OPR investigations involving our employees. We take this position out of respect for the rights of all parties potentially involved and the fairness of the process.”
Firedoglake tried to contact multiple individuals in the FBI, who were involved in the decision to terminate Parkinson. Nobody answered and in at least one case, where a message was left, the executive forwarded the message to the FBI National Press Office so the office could be prepared to give an answer if the executive was contacted again. And, when the FBI Sacramento Division’s Public Affairs Office was asked to comment, the public affairs official forwarded the query to the FBI National Press Office.
In conclusion, Radack argued this case shows how cozy the relationship between management officials and the OIG can be. People who go to the Inspector General are supposed to be safe, but often they become a target of any investigation that ensues. She noted that this is what had happened to Thomas Drake, who sought to expose fraud, waste, abuse and illegality through proper channels when he was working for the National Security Agency and wound up the target of a leak investigation.
Also, one “would think that having FBI aircraft commandeered to go pick up prostitutes would be something cut and dry,” that it would not be controversial to hold individuals accountable, but short of being internally taken to task for their behavior, neither of the pilots were fired. The person fired was Parkinson, who reported the alleged sexual misconduct being committed with FBI money and resources.