US Marshals Service Spent $800,000 on 'Swag'

Wednesday, 06 Nov 2013 05:05 PM

By Cynthia Fagen

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The U.S. Marshals Service spent $800,000 on lapel pins, silk scarves, Christmas ornaments, crystal statues, and other promotional "swag" over a six-year period, says an inspector general report.

The Justice Department's Inspector General Oversight and Review Division launched the investigation after receiving an anonymous tip in 2010.

The 37- page report, released Tuesday, reveals that one of the divisions of the Marshals Service increased its spending tenfold on what the report described as "swag."

"We found that the IOD [Investigative Operations Division] spent at least $793,118 on promotional items during fiscal years 2005 to 2010 and that these expenditures were excessive and, in some instances, in contravention of Department Policies and Government Accountability Office (GAO) decisions and guidance," the report says.

For example, in 2005, the Marshals Service spent $29,138.62. In 2010, spending soared to $313,193.46.

"As an illustration of some of the IOD's spending we found that in six years the IOD branches spent $155,081 on USMS challenge coins, $11,338 on neckties and silk scarves bearing the USMS seal, $13,605 on USMS-themed Christmas ornaments, $16,084 on USMS-themed blankets and throws, and $36,596 on USMS lapel pins," the report says.

Other spending included $8,789.60 on cufflinks, $6,266.04 on teddy bears, and $21,543.86 on key chains.

Lamb wool blankets costing $149 each and $125 crystal statues were given as retirement gifts.

Other items included USMS-themed T-shirts and sweatshirts, patches, pens, clocks, and watches.

Witnesses said that "silk ties were given to their foreign counterparts as a gesture of goodwill, as an expression of thanks, and in some instances, as farewell gifts to foreign officials whose embassy tours had ended."

Since Attorney General Eric Holder issued a directive in 2011 to the Justice Department to limit spending to "mission-essential programs, projects and activities," the Marshals Service has reduced its promotional spending. In fiscal 2012, less than $600 went to 'promotional and ceremonial' items.

The Justice Department investigation concluded that the growth in USMS spending was "the result of the absence of internal controls, accountability and good judgment."

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