Energy

This Federal Employee Used A Gov’t Credit Card To Make Car Payments

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The Interior Department inspector general’s office found a former federal employee used a government credit card to make payments on her car loans, pay utility bills and fill up her gas tank.

In total, Loren Estes, a former secretary at the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s field office in Kentucky, charged $1,900 to a government credit card for personal expenses, according to the IG’s office.

Estes left the government amid suspicions she was misusing taxpayer dollars, so no administrative action was ever taken by the Interior Department.

But the law eventually caught up with Estes. She was indicted by a grand jury for the Eastern District of Kentucky in September 2015, and the former secretary eventually plead guilty to stealing from the government.

“Estes was subsequently sentenced to 24 months of probation and ordered to pay $2,000.73 in fines and restitution,” the IG noted in its very brief report on Estes’ crime.

The IG dated its report on Estes to April 2016 — seven months after the former Interior employee was indicted. The IG’s report wasn’t publicly released, however, until Monday. That means the public was unaware of Estes actions until nine months after the indictment.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly criticized the Interior IG’s office for releasing reports months after investigations are concluded and referred to law enforcement officials.

The DOI inspector general recently sent a report to Congress detailing how the former head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bob Abbey, stood to profit from the sale of federal land to a developer who was also a client of his old consulting firm.

That report, however, was sent to Congress nearly eight months after the IG’s office brought the case to a U.S. attorney in September, 2015.

“These are troubling findings, and serve as further evidence of exacerbating corruption within the Department of the Interior,” Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert wrote in a recent letter to DOI Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall.

“It is similarly troubling that the OIG waited until three days after the Subcommittee’s hearing on DOI ethics violations to release this report summary,” Gohmert wrote. “Particularly since the summary notes that the U.S. Attorney declined to prosecute Mr. Abbey eight months ago and Subcommittee staff specifically asked OIG staff about the disposition of this investigation during a meeting on May 20, 2016.”

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