By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
From the start, the Miami district staff maintained that no deception had occurred and blamed the allegations on hostile union officials. According to the OIG report: "Cadman did not deny that large numbers of aliens had been transferred and released from Krome.... However, Cadman essentially represented that all alien movements were normal in light of Krome's overcrowded condition."
That may have been a risky position to assume, but the only real proof that the transfers were directly linked to the congressional visit lay in the June 9 e-mail exchange between Krome administrator Kathy Weiss and Valerie Blake. Presumably, if the e-mail could be kept from investigators, the allegations could not be proved.
OIG investigators began requesting documents soon after the probe began on July 14. Initially, individual witnesses turned over records they had in their possession. Investigators later submitted a comprehensive request to the INS for all relevant documents, including electronic messages, that were maintained at headquarters or in regional or district offices. But the INS failed to produce the critical Weiss-Blake e-mails, as well as other documents that investigators knew existed. On September 28, the INS reported that the eastern regional office had "no documents responsive to [the OIG] document request."
Investigators knew this was not true. Twenty-four hours earlier they had visited the eastern regional office in Vermont, and while searching through old e-mails, they had come across the Weiss-Blake exchange.
A week and a half later investigators dropped by Blake's Miami office. The OIG report describes the scene: "At Blake's request, she was permitted to sit at her computer and review her e-mails in the presence of the agents with the understanding that she would retrieve and print any e-mails relevant to the delegation's visit." As the investigators watched, Blake quickly scrolled past the June 9 message. They ordered her to go back. "At that point, [an] agent printed the e-mail and took over the review." After that incident, all pretense of cooperating with the OIG investigators was dropped. According to the report: "As the OIG investigation began to establish culpability by senior-level INS managers, cooperation substantially diminished." The day after the scene in Blake's office, "one witness challenged the OIG's authority to investigate and another terminated an interview and refused to cooperate further."
Blake, Devine, and Chasse subsequently insisted that they be granted immunity before they agreed to speak with OIG investigators. Cadman also refused to give further interviews unless he was promised immunity, though he had initially volunteered his cooperation. George Waldroup agreed to provide investigators with a computer disk containing his e-mail records, but it turned out the files were locked by a password, which Waldroup refused to reveal. (The OIG eventually decoded the files.) And Cadman refused to give investigators access to the district's computer files and demanded that they produce a subpoena.
When the OIG was finally able to examine Cadman's personal computer, all e-mail relating to the delegation's visit had been deleted. According to the OIG report: "In his interview, Cadman stated that as a matter of consistent practice he contemporaneously deleted his electronic mail messages shortly after responding to them. In searching his e-mail, however, we did find some of Cadman's messages from June 1995 -- which was inconsistent with Cadman's representation to us."
Investigators eventually recovered 61 messages that had been sent or received by Cadman specifically relating to the allegations about the congressional visit. They also hired the Lotus Development Corporation to reconstruct deleted messages.
OIG's investigators noted that even routine computer-generated logs documenting daily operations could not be trusted: "We learned early in the investigation that we could not rely on the accuracy of INS records. Too many discrepancies and variances existed for us to be satisfied that we could adequately assess whether such issues as the movement of aliens had been accurately recorded." In order to evaluate precisely what had transpired the weekend of June 9, 1995, a team of auditors had to reconstruct and recompute months of INS records.
The OIG also questioned the reliability of the testimony given by high-ranking supervisors. In particular, the investigators' report challenged statements given by deputy regional director Michael Devine and regional director Carol Chasse. "During her approximately six-and-one-half-hour-long testimony, Chasse responded that she did [not] know the answer, could not recall, or could not remember at least 245 times," the report stated. "In this context, Chasse's repeated assertions that she could not recall critical conversations cast doubt on her candor." Devine made similar claims a total of 171 times.
Through a spokeswoman at the regional office, Chasse refused to speak to a reporter. Devine declined to comment on specific allegations in the report. "After working for the government for 27 years, I find myself in a very Kafka-esque scenario," he said. "I'm 1500 miles away from Krome. I have never been to Krome, and I have to defend myself against allegations that I know aren't true."
The OIG report originally recommended discipline for Chasse and Devine ranging from a 30-day suspension to termination. Those recommendations were reviewed by the Justice Department, which sent out disciplinary orders during the last week of August.
Though the department would not release details, sources familiar with the action say the most severe discipline was imposed on Valerie Blake and Dan Cadman, who were reportedly told they will be terminated. Another high-ranking supervisor -- the only one to provide OIG investigators with a copy of the incriminating Weiss-Blake e-mail exchange -- will reportedly be demoted and transferred to California. Kathy Weiss, the Krome administrator, and Vincent Intenzo, her deputy, reportedly will also be demoted and transferred out of the district. Sources say that other supervisors received suspensions ranging from two days to two weeks. All INS employees have a right to appeal the measures. (In addition to the administrative punishments, the U.S. Attorney's Office may decide to pursue criminal charges.)