LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – The three outside contractors hired by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to handle mail receipt and data entry at the California Service Center (CSC) in Laguna Niguel have paid the government a total of $1,040,552 to resolve allegations that their employees or temporary workers intentionally shredded, rather than properly filed, thousands of documents submitted by immigrants during a three-month period in 2002.
JHM Research and Development, Inc.; SEI Technology, Inc.; and Datatrac Information Services, Inc. did not admit wrongdoing, but paid the $1 million settlement to avoid civil litigation over the matter.
The settlement was announced today after the United States Attorney’s Office learned that SEIT had paid its portion of the settlement – $494,262.20 – late yesterday.
JHM and Datatrac paid their portions — $52,027.60 and $494,262.20, respectively – late last week.
The shredding took place when the government agency was called the Immigration and Naturalization Service. That agency – which has been broken into three separate agencies, including Citizenship and Immigration Services – is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Previously, Leonel Salazar, a Datatrac supervisor in the CSC file room, and Dawn Randall, the manager of the CSC file room employed by SEIT, were convicted of unlawful destruction of government documents. Salazar was convicted after a jury trial in 2003, and his conviction was affirmed on appeal. Randall pleaded guilty in 2005. Both defendants were sentenced to probation.
The CSC handles all immigration-related mail in California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Guam. In January 2001, the INS entered into a contract with JHM of Maryland to run the CSC and the three other service centers in the country. JHM entered into subcontracts with SEIT of Virginia and Datatrac of Texas. Together, the three companies are known as the Service Center Operations Team or SCOT.
In January 2002, there was a backlog of nearly 60,000 “interfiling” documents in the CSC file room. Interfiling consists of applications (for asylum, for example) and petitions (for visas, for example), as well as supporting documents, such as birth/marriage/naturalization certificates, passports and rap sheets. Interfiling also consists of change-of-address letters, returned mail and INS letters acknowledging receipt of an application or petition. The INS Records Operations Handbook strictly prohibited shredding or destruction of any interfiling except receipt notices. SCOT employees were required to be familiar with INS policies and procedures.
The government’s investigation determined that both Salazar and Randall directed or authorized file room clerks to shred all interfiling to quickly eliminate the interfiling backlog. Salazar and Randall directed or authorized the clerks with full knowledge that such wholesale shredding was improper and illegal. The illegal shredding began in February 2002 and came to end on April 4, 2002 when it was discovered by INS employees. The next day, the INS ordered SCOT to cease all shredding and, shortly thereafter, physically removed all shredding machines from SCOT’s work areas.
The government incurred substantial costs in repairing the damage done by the illegal shredding, which included re-sending requests for evidence to immigrants whose evidence may have been shredded and reviewing all future boxes of documents designated for shredding by SCOT. The government investigation also determined that it overpaid JHM for filing services that were not rendered. The settlement announced today resolves all of these potential claims against the three SCOT companies.
The government investigation team in this matter included agents from the Office of Internal Audit for INS (now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), the Office of Professional Responsibility for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Justice.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney David K. Barrett
Release No. 06-080