A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia has indicted former acting inspector general for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Charles K. Edwards, and his former subordinate, Murali Yamazula Venkata, on 16 counts for their alleged theft of “proprietary software and confidential databases from the U.S. government as part of a scheme to defraud the U.S. government,” according to a press release from the DOJ. Edwards served as acting IG for the Department of Homeland Security from 2011 to 2013. The DOJ announced the charges against Edwards and Venkata on Friday.
According to the allegations in the indictment, from October 2014 to April 2017, Edwards, Venkata, and others executed a scheme to defraud the U.S. government by stealing confidential and proprietary software from DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), along with sensitive government databases containing personal identifying information (PII) of DHS and USPS employees, so that Edwards’s company, Delta Business Solutions, 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. Although Edwards had left DHS-OIG in December 2013, he continued to leverage his relationship with Venkata and other DHS-OIG employees to steal the software and the sensitive government databases.
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 PII. As further part of the alleged scheme, Edwards retained software developers in India for the purpose of developing his commercial alternative of DHS-OIG’s software.
Venkata is also accused of destroying records.
A 2014 report from an oversight panel of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee found that Edwards “altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general,” at the same time “he was seeking President Obama’s nomination to be the permanent inspector general overseeing DHS,” the Washington Post reported at the time.
“The indictment is the result of an ongoing investigation by the DHS OIG and USPS-OIG and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Victor R. Salgado of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David B. Kent of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia,” the press release states.
Barack Obama has not made any statement about Edwards’ indictment yet.
The release also notes that the year 2020 “marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.”