Capitol Police Diversity Officer Charged With Embezzlement

Deborah K. Lewis, formerly a manager at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will appear in federal court Tuesday.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 17: A police car sits in front of the U.S. Capitol building, on February 17, 2012 in Washington, DC. Earlier today the FBI arrested a man with possible ties to al-Qaeda, for plotting to blow up the U.S. Capitol building in an apparent suicide attack. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
June 18, 2014, 5:46 p.m.

Fed­er­al au­thor­it­ies have charged the ci­vil­ian head of the Cap­it­ol Po­lice De­part­ment’s Of­fice of Di­versity with em­bezz­ling pub­lic funds, the res­ult of an in­vest­ig­a­tion stem­ming from her pre­vi­ous em­ploy­ment at Im­mig­ra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

A plea-agree­ment hear­ing is set for Tues­day in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Wash­ing­ton for De­borah K. Lewis, who since Ju­ly 3, 2011, has been the di­versity of­ficer and equal em­ploy­ment man­ager for the Cap­it­ol Po­lice.

Lewis is just the second per­son ever to hold that job, a post cre­ated in 2008 to com­bat the de­part­ment’s his­tory of race- and gender-based dis­crim­in­a­tion com­plaints and law­suits.

The probe that led to Lewis be­ing charged was handled by the Of­fice of In­spect­or Gen­er­al in­vest­ig­at­ors as­signed to ICE at the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment.

It is un­clear wheth­er their in­vest­ig­a­tion was un­der­way when Lewis was in­ter­viewed in the sum­mer of 2011 for the Cap­it­ol Po­lice job and was sub­sequently hired. If so, there could be ques­tions about why any back­ground check did not flag the on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tion, or wheth­er a back­ground check was not done or was ig­nored.

A work his­tory also shows that after leav­ing ICE, Lewis was sub­sequently em­ployed for about one month at the Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment.

Lewis has been placed on ad­min­is­trat­ive leave pending the out­come of the case, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased Wed­nes­day to Na­tion­al Journ­al by a Cap­it­ol Po­lice spokes­wo­man. In fact, say sources, Lewis was im­me­di­ately es­cor­ted out of the po­lice headquar­ters build­ing when word ar­rived in late March of the crim­in­al charge lodged by fed­er­al pro­sec­utors.

Wil­li­am Miller, a spokes­man for the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice for the Dis­trict of Columbia, would not com­ment on the case Wed­nes­day, he said, bey­ond what is now in the court re­cord.

What is known from court doc­u­ments is that fed­er­al pro­sec­utors filed an ini­tial char­ging doc­u­ment against Lewis on March 31. It al­leges that between April 2008 and April 2010 she “know­ingly and will­fully did em­bezzle, steal, and con­vert to her own use prop­erty of the United States hav­ing some value, that is money.”

The charge against Lewis was of­fi­cially lis­ted as “Theft of Pub­lic Money.”

The doc­u­ment does not provide more de­tails, in­clud­ing the amount of stolen money, or from where that pub­lic money was em­bezzled and how.

An ICE spokes­wo­man had no im­me­di­ate com­ment about the Lewis case on Wed­nes­day. She also did not im­me­di­ately con­firm a work his­tory show­ing Lewis was em­ployed at that agency from 2004 to 2010, or the ac­cur­acy of a de­scrip­tion pos­ted on the In­ter­net of Lewis’s job title in an an­nounce­ment of a 2010 pub­lic ap­pear­ance she was mak­ing. She was de­scribed in the on­line post­ing as “chief di­versity of­ficer for Im­mig­ra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.”

An Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment spokes­man also would not an­swer ques­tions about Lewis. “As there is there is an open and on­go­ing fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to this mat­ter, all ques­tions re­gard­ing the case should be re­ferred to the De­part­ment of Justice,” Cul­len Schwarz said.

But when Lewis ap­pears in court on Tues­day be­fore U.S. Dis­trict Judge Richard Le­on, more de­tails are an­ti­cip­ated. Ac­cord­ing to pa­pers filed by her law­yer, Dav­id Benow­itz of Wash­ing­ton, “Ms. Lewis is pre­pared to enter a guilty plea to one count of mis­de­mean­or Theft of Pub­lic Money, Prop­erty or Re­cords.”

The plea agree­ment hear­ing was ori­gin­ally sched­uled for May 1, but was can­celed. It was then res­ched­uled for May 28, but was can­celed again be­cause Lewis’s sis­ter was sched­uled to have sur­gery dur­ing the week. Then the hear­ing was res­ched­uled for June 10, but Benow­itz re­por­ted he had a con­flict from an­oth­er case.

Benow­itz did not re­spond to emails on Wed­nes­day seek­ing more in­form­a­tion about the case, in­clud­ing wheth­er Lewis will be fol­low­ing through with her re­quest to be per­mit­ted to enter a guilty plea. A spokes­man for his law firm said Benow­itz did not have any im­me­di­ate com­ment.

The Cap­it­ol Po­lice di­versity of­fice was cre­ated in 2008 un­der former Chief Phil­lip Morse to re­spond to com­plaints from minor­it­ies in the de­part­ment that they had trouble get­ting their dis­crim­in­a­tion com­plaints in front of top man­agers.

Former Cap­it­ol Po­lice In­spect­or Gen­er­al Carl Hoeck­er was among those who raised is­sues about the de­part­ment’s lack of a form­al di­versity pro­gram or an Equal Em­ploy­ment Of­fice func­tion.

The de­part­ment­al state­ment giv­en to Na­tion­al Journ­al about Lewis on Wed­nes­day said: “The Di­versity Of­ficer ad­vises the De­part­ment on pro­act­ive strategies to pre­vent em­ploy­ment dis­crim­in­a­tion, en­sure work­force di­versity, ad­dress work­place con­flict, and cre­ate an in­clus­ive en­vir­on­ment where all em­ploy­ees feel they are val­ued, re­spec­ted, and free to de­vel­op and per­form to their fullest po­ten­tial.”

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