Accused of stealing software and sensitive government databases for financial gain, an ex-Acting Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and his former subordinate were recently indicted on 16 counts, including conspiracy to commit theft of government property and to defraud the United States, theft of government property, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
In December 2013, Charles K. Edwards resigned from his post as Acting Inspector General for DHS just three days before he was scheduled to appear before a Senate hearing to answer questions. Five months later, a Senate oversight panel determined that Edwards had “jeopardized the independence” of the DHS Office of Inspector General after investigating whistleblower allegations that he had abused government resources and maintained inappropriate personal friendships with senior DHS officials.
From October 2014 to April 2017, Edwards, his former subordinate, Murali Yamazula Venkata, and other government employees reportedly stole the personal data of nearly 250,000 DHS employees. As owner of the company, Delta Business Solutions, Edwards could later sell an enhanced version of DHS-OIG’s software to the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at a profit.
The indictment further alleges that, in addition to stealing DHS-OIG’s software and the sensitive government databases, Venkata and others also assisted Edwards by reconfiguring his laptop so that he could properly upload the stolen software and databases, provided troubleshooting support whenever Edwards required it, and helped him build a testing server at his residence with the stolen software and databases, which contained the personal identifying information (PII) of DHS and USPS employees. Edwards also allegedly retained software developers in India for the purpose of developing his commercial alternative of DHS-OIG’s software.
Last year, a branch chief in the information technology division of the inspector general’s office named Sonal Patel pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit theft of government property. Facing a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, Patel has reportedly been cooperating with the government against Edwards and their co-conspirators.
In addition to the conspiracy and theft charges, Venkata was also charged with destruction of records.