U.S. News & World Report details the controversy that has embroiled the U.S. Border Patrol since allegations of a kickback scheme were raised. It began in 2000 when Agents Larry Davenport and Willie Forester disclosed to Justice Department investigators that some agents temporarily assigned to the Douglas, Ariz., station had accepted kickbacks from supervisors who rented rooms to them and from hotels anxious to get their business. Their charges led to several investigations and the disciplining of 23 Border Patrol agents and three low-level supervisors. At least 19 other agents were involved in the scheme but were not disciplined. Two agents indicted in the case are awaiting trial. An investigation of similar charges, at a Border Patrol facility in Charleston, S.C., led to disciplinary action against nine agents.
Davenport and Forester continued to press their allegations with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the government agency in Washington that protects whistle-blowers. In papers filed with that office, the two men alleged that David Aguilar–now the head of the Border Patrol in Washington, directing the enforcement efforts of 11,000 agents nationwide–and senior managers in Douglas were aware of the kickback scheme but did nothing to stop it. At the time, Aguilar was the chief patrol agent in Tucson. The whistle-blowers also charged that the Department of Homeland Security, which investigated their allegations, failed to pursue other charges against Border Patrol managers who, they say, participated in the scheme. The Office of Special Counsel has rendered a verdict that is sharply critical of both the Border Patrol and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security.