About the Office of Investigations
The Office of Investigations investigates allegations of waste, fraud, abuse, gross mismanagement, employee and contractor misconduct, and criminal and civil violations of law that have an impact on the Smithsonian's programs and operations. The Office of Investigations refers matters to the U.S. Department of Justice whenever OIG has reasonable grounds to believe there has been a violation of federal criminal law. The Office of Investigations also identifies fraud indicators and recommends measures to management to improve the Smithsonian's ability to protect itself against fraud and other wrongdoing.
Summaries of Selected Closed Cases
OIG determined that a senior employee violated Smithsonian Directive 103, Smithsonian Institution Standards of Conduct, by (1) soliciting and accepting the free use of a venue, a gift valued at least $25,000, from a prohibited source without paying the fair-market value of the gift and reporting it to a Smithsonian ethics counselor; (2) creating the appearance of using her Smithsonian position for personal gain by soliciting the use of the venue from a prohibited source; (3) creating the appearance of giving preferential treatment by providing free use of Smithsonian space to the venue host with an estimated value of $33,875; (4) using her Smithsonian position to solicit a dress and receiving a discount of at least $2,250; (5) creating the appearance of a quid pro quo deal by providing the dress designer with a free ticket to a Smithsonian event, a value of $1,700, soon after receiving a discount for the custom-designed dress; (6) failing to disclose the gifts of free use of venue and the discounted price for the dress on the annual confidential financial disclosure report even though she was required to disclose gifts greater than $100 from any source; (7) using Smithsonian staff and a contractor to publicize a personal event that was not an official Smithsonian activity; and (8) failing to disclose her then-partner’s contract with the Smithsonian on the annual confidential financial disclosure report. The senior employee resigned from the Smithsonian.
The OIG found that a Smithsonian employee misappropriated a government fuel card to steal gas for his personal vehicle. The employee was able to gain access to an unsecured government fuel card at his place of work, and the employee admitted to pumping government-owned fuel into his personal vehicle. The employee was given a 20-day suspension without pay and made restitution for the fuel taken.
OIG found that a Smithsonian employee provided a blank Smithsonian facsimile transmittal form and a blank Smithsonian letterhead form to a family member who worked as a contractor for another federal entity. The family member then used these blank forms, along with the Smithsonian employee’s payroll account documentation, to fraudulently apply for Maryland state daycare assistance. The family member did this to qualify for subsidized daycare because her annual salary was above the maximum income threshold to receive the subsidy. Based on OIG’s investigation, the Smithsonian employee received a 15-day suspension without pay.
OIG determined that four employees stole approximately $8,100 from Smithsonian museum stores. The Smithsonian terminated the employees, and arrest warrants were served on them. Subsequent to their arrests, the employees entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office. Based on these agreements, the court ordered a total of $4,000 in restitution and 40 hours of community service.
OIG determined that a Smithsonian employee falsely filed travel vouchers for $1,669 to obtain reimbursement for taxicab trips that were not taken. The employee admitted to OIG that she inflated her voucher claims in order to pay for her excessive automated teller machine withdrawals. The employee retired from federal service.
OIG received information that an individual in Texas claimed to be in possession of the Omega watch once worn by Apollo 7 astronaut Donn Eisele while he was in space in 1968. NASA had purchased Omega watches for all astronauts for their use in space.
The Omega watches remained the property of NASA and were returned to NASA by the astronauts upon their departure from the space program. NASA transferred this watch to the Smithsonian, and it became part of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) collection. The watch was reported stolen from the Smithsonian collections while on loan to another museum in 1989.
With the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), OIG identified the person who claimed to be in possession of the watch. Then, with the assistance of personnel from NASM, OIG was able to verify that the item was the stolen Omega watch. OIG, in coordination with FBI agents, recovered the Omega watch and returned it to NASM. The Omega watch has an estimated value of $400,000 based on its historical provenance.