This diary relates to my recommended diary yesterday here at this link. It involved the story of the Special Agents of the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Energy.
The initial story by ABC 10 News indicated that a SWAT Team had raided a Kenneth Wright's home regarding a Student Loan Default by his estranged Wife. That is what I posted. I then left to take my son out for an errand. We were gone for several hours. When I returned I saw that a number of comments indicated the story was incorrect. I posted updates based on the information I could find at the time. I then took a nap (I have a chronic autoimmune illness and was extremely tired). When I returned to the story again in the evening, I saw that a copy of the search warrant had been released online. I updated the story again in the evening with further information regarding the search warrant and the DOE's law enforcement authority. Ultimately I provided five updates. This is by way of explanation and does not excuse my failure to provide accurate information on a timely basis about this story.
I apologize to the community for not being more timely with the updates and for not timely changing my title and the contents of the story to accurately reflect the DOE's statement that the raid was carried out by Federal Special Agents of the Office of the Inspector General for the DOE based on criminal investigation of Wright's estranged wife and not by a SWAT team for a student loan default. I failed to keep abreast of the developments and thus did a disservice to the community.
Now for the current status of the story. First I'm going to include the information from my fifth update last night because it bears on information contained in the search warrant and the law enforcement authority of the Special Agents of the OIG for the DOE. Then I will include information from a new report by ABC News !0, the local station that broke the original story.
The Search Warrant and the DOE Inspector General's law enforcement authority.
This information repeats what I provided in my Fifth update to my diary yesterday so if you have already read it, feel free to skip over it to the new report by ABC News 10.
Here is the link to the search warrant. The most relevant part of the warrant is the affidavit of Howard Nance which states that the authorities executing the warrant are to search for evidence related to Financial Aid Fraud, Conspiracy, Theft of Government Funds, Making a False Statement to Government Agency and Wire Fraud. The affiant (i.e., Mr Nance) states that he has reason to believe that [name not indicated, but presumably Mr. Wright's estranged wife] is present at Mr. Wright's home which is described in the affidavit on Attachment A-1. One page of the affidavit, page 4 of Attachment B is not included. That page was stated to include the names of people for whom evidence of contacts with Mr. Wright's wife was sought. Presumably they are her alleged conspirators.
DOE agents executed the warrant. Mr. Wright might very well have felt that these officials of the DOE were a SWAT team, but there is no information indicating that they were so designated.
Here is a link to the DOE Office of the Inspector General describing the DOE's law enforcement authority and capability. It was originally issued by former Attorney General John Ashcroft during his time in office with the Bush administration
Section 6(e) of the Act provides that the Attorney General may authorize covered individuals to:
1. carry a firearm while engaged in official duties as authorized under this Act or other
statute, or as expressly authorized by the Attorney General;
2. make an arrest without a warrant while engaged in official duties as authorized under this Act or other statute, or as expressly authorized by the Attorney General, for any offense against the United States committed in the presence of such individual, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if such individual has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony; and
3. upon probable cause to believe that a violation has been committed, seek and execute warrants for arrest, search of a premises, or seizure or evidence issued under the authority of the United States.
That link also describes the law enforcement training OIG Special Agents (That's what they are called) receive.
Here is a link to a Washington Post Article regarding the purchase of 27 shotguns for the DOE office of the Inspector General last year.
Here’s a statement from the office in response to a question about why need 27 shotguns with a 14-inch barrels:
“The Office of Inspector General is the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Education and is responsible for the detection of waste, fraud, abuse, and other criminal activity involving Federal education funds, programs, and operations. As such, OIG operates with full statutory law enforcement authority, which includes conducting search warrants, making arrests, and carrying firearms. The acquisition of these firearms is necessary to replace older and mechanically malfunctioning firearms, and in compliance with Federal procurement requirements. For more information on OIG’s law enforcement authority, please visit their Web site at : www.ed.gov/oig”
Apparently a number of right wing conspiracy theorists have suggested there was something nefarious about the shotgun purchase, but it seems to meet with the OIG's legal authority as the investigative and enforcement arm of the DOE.
The new report by ABC News 10 on the DOE raid.
Here is the new online story regarding the raid of Kenneth Wright's home by DOE Special Agents. It includes statements of witnesses that support Mr. Wright's version of events.
After the Department of Education raided the home of a Stockton man Tuesday morning, officials said the search was part of an ongoing investigation into financial aid fraud.
Kenneth Wright, after retaining a Sacramento lawyer, gave News10 the full original search warrant he was given by federal agents Tuesday. [...]
Wright's neighbors, who did not want to disclose their last names, said they saw the raid unfold.
"They surrounded the house; it was like a task force or S.W.A.T team," across the street neighbor Becky said. "They all had guns. They dragged him out in his boxer shorts, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him."
According to Becky and her two children, the raid started at 6 a.m. with agents ramming down Wright's front door.
"I watched until I went to work at 10:45 and they were still out there," Becky said.
Her young daughter, Valerie, said she counted 13 agents and one Stockton police officer outside Wright's home.
"I felt really bad for those kids," said Becky about agents when they brought out Wright's three children. "They were crying really loud."
The link to the ABC News 10 link also includes a video that provides additional information not included in the written online article. I have yet to find a copy of the video that I can embed here, so I recommend you view it as well. It includes an interview with Wright's neighbors who witnessed the incident, and an interview with Kenneth Wright's attorney who was hired by Wright to pursue a claim of excessive force by the DOE agents. It also includes a telephone interview with an official of the DOE that does not provide any additional information beyond that provided by the DOE statement yesterday (i.e., that the DOE conducted the raid based on a search warrant issued regarding suspected financial aid fraud).
The video also includes statements by Wright in which he says the agents led him to believe the raid was related to unpaid student loans. Wright also claims that the DOE Special Agents told him he was not the target of the investigation, but his wife was, and that they thanked him for his cooperation.
To sum up: The DOE broke into Wright's home on the basis of their search warrant. Wright's story of the event (i.e, being dragged out of his home in boxer shorts and handcuffed for six hours or so) is supported by a neighbor and her children who witnessed the event. The neighbor described it as "like a task force or SWAT team." The incident raises issues of whether the search was reasonable (there is nothing in the search warrant to suggest the DOE had a belief that the Wright home contained weapons or that the Wright's posed a threat to federal law enforcement officials) and whether excessive force was used in carrying out the warrant. Wright has hired an attorney regarding possible legal action for use of excessive force. Wright claims he was told by the DOE Special Agents that his wife was the focus of the investigation over financial aid fraud after earlier being told it involved student loan defaults.
We will just have to see what further developments occur in this matter.