Saturday, February 15, 2014



My Story Of Lying About Overtime As A US Border Patrol Agent

Back then in the Border Patrol we called it UOT (Uncontrollable Overtime).  That was in the early 1980's when  I was a 27 year old trainee US Border Patrol Agent in El Cajon California.  The official  term is Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime for the US Border Patrol.  It is officially Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) for ICE special agents.  The article below indicates that AUO  is still an abuse issue today.

Here is a link to copies of the 1984 memo that I wrote and the USBP response:

I say new USBP agents are subtly coerced into lying about their AUO.  Once they pass their 4 month academy they are on probation for a full year.  As probationary trainees they are continuously evaluated by the journeymen agents who complete their C&E's (Conduct And Evaluation Reports).

The journeyman agents help trainees fill out their INS forms I-50's (or Lie 50's as we jokingly called them).  Agents and trainees used the I-50's to document the work that they had completed during the two week time or pay period.  Agents and trainees also logged their AUO hours on the I-50 and time sheets in order to collect their overtime pay.

I don't remember the specific conversations I had with journeyman agents who I rode with.  I do know that our I-50's had to match as we were partners during the specific two week time periods.  I do know that we marked down an average of 2 hours a day AUO even though we seldom worked that many hours.  We had to average 2 hours a day (or 20 hours a two week pay period) in order to receive our full 25% AUO overtime pay. 

I do know that we all lied about the time that we worked.  I am not saying that there were not times that we got so busy that we did actually work the two hours or more AUO.  We did.  Yet the actual working of the two hours (or more) was the exception, not the rule.  As a rough estimation I would say that we worked somewhere between one forth or one third of our actual overtime.  The rest was "penciled" in. 

Our justifications:  "Don't worry about it.  It's OK to fudge a little.  There will be times that you work more than your 20 hours per pay period and you won't get paid for it".

I specifically remember working one 4PM to 12 AM shift.  We were finished and all sitting around the office tables just waiting to leave.  At 12:02 the supervisor said " Well it's 2 minutes after 12, there's our overtime, let's get out of here!"  And we all did - just as we more often than not - did.

On a typical 8 hour dayshift in Northern San Diego County (7AM - 3PM) we by noon had filled up our vans with undocumented people and were heading back to the station to do their paperwork.  We "processed" the people we caught and all went home at 2:00 or 2:30.  We all made sure that we carried (lied) about the right number of overtime hours to be paid our 25% overtime.

I also worked as an INS and DHS ICE Special Agent.  Although DHS uses the LEAP system, the abuse is the same or worse.  I know one current ICE agent who recently told me that 2/3's of his or her office not only lies about overtime, they also lie about the their 8 hour workdays.  ICE agents are assigned Government vehicles and investigative case work.  They can say they are doing casework or surveillance and roll in and out of their offices at will.  

The Math

For example a USBP agent making $50,000 a year base pay who "worked" an average of 20 hours per pay period for the entire 26 pay periods of that year would make an extra 25% as AUO.  In this case, 25% of $50,000 is  $12,500 AUO for that year.  In reality that agent's take home pay was $62,500 not  $50,000.

This adds up in either AUO or LEAP system especially when based upon agents who are GS-12's, 13's or 14's  with years of time in grade.  Their base pays could be up in the $80,000 to $100,000 ranges. 

Yes, an agent whose base pay is $100,000 and lies about his or her overtime cheats the tax payers out of $25,000 a year.  To add insult to injury, AUO and LEAP are calculated into the agents' "high three" years for retirement calculation purposes (at least under the old CSRS retirement system).  Agents could lie about their overtime during their working years and receive a much higher retirement pay for lying about their overtime. 

Can I without a doubt say that all Border Patrol Agents lie and have lied about their AUO?  No.

I can say, as I did in my 1984 Memo asking for systemic change:  "If one person is lying isn't it possible that all agents are lying?"

I say from my experience working as a USBP and ICE agent, lying about overtime was and is a systemic problem and commonly done.  The upper USBP management who swept my case under the rug did so because they were products of the same system.  The OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility ) investigators who "investigated" my case and swept it under the rug because they were products of the same system too.   

How much taxpayer money is involved in this fraud?  There are roughly 19,000 USBP agents with an average base pay of $42,000 per year.  If one third of them (6,333) lie about their over time the total is $42,000 X 25% = $10,500.  $10,500 X 6,333 agents = $66,496,500 per year in fraud. 

Yes that is a very safe estimate of 66 million dollars.   

As far as ICE or HSI special agents, there are 6,700 nationwide.  Let's use the GS-12 step 1 figure of $70,000 base pay per year, times 25% = $17,500.  Let's use the very safe estimate of 1/3 of the ICE agents lying = 2,233 agents X $17,500 = $39,083,332 per year in fraud.

Combined USBP and ICE fraud =  $66,496,500 + $39,083,332 =  $105, 579, 830 a year.

Yes.  A very safe estimate of one hundred million a year.

Now multiply  $105, 579, 830 times 30 (the number of years ago that I exposed this): 

Yes, a very safe estimate of over 3 billion dollars.

The 8.7 million that the US Office of Special Council refers to is the tip of the iceberg.

This overtime abuse with the USBP would be pretty easy to prove.  Most USBP agents drive their own cars to their stations.  My guess is that most if not all stations now have parking that is gate controlled and under video surveillance.  Wouldn't those gate systems and video surveillance cameras reveal the actual times agents are coming to and going home from work?  Do you think the times that many agents leave their parking lots correspond with the times many mark down on their timesheets?

Unfortunately, I don't.

And even if they are leaving on time, wouldn't the stations' video surveillance systems reveal if the agents are out in the field working or playing video games at their desks?

This abuse is a microcosm of the government corruption taking place in Washington.

The system needs to be managed to prevent this abuse.  As I said back in 1984 simple time clocks would be one solution.  And with today's video surveillance systems and a system of fair overtime pay this corruption would once and for all be laid to rest.  

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