Man tasked with preventing fraud at DHS pleads guilty to defrauding the government

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A former top watchdog for the US Department of Homeland Security pleaded guilty on Friday to defrauding the government by stealing ​​proprietary software and sensitive databases, which he used to develop a commercial case management system that he offered for sale to federal agencies.

Charles K. Edwards, a 61-year-old resident of Sandy Spring, Maryland, served as the acting Inspector General for the DHS’s Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) under then-President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2013. He had previously served as inspector general for the US Postal Service—a role that is aimed at preventing abuse, fraud, and other internal issues. Edwards resigned in December of 2013 after facing allegations of abuse of power, according to The Washington Post, including misspending funds, engaging in nepotism, and making his staff do his graduate school homework.

In 2020, Edwards was indicted by the Department of Justice, which accused him of more serious acts during the three years after he left government. According to court documents, Edwards allegedly stole confidential and proprietary software from his former office, along with databases that contained personal identifying information belonging to DHS and US Postal Service employees. Edwards created a company, called Delta Business Solutions, with the goal of selling a version of DHS-OIG’s software to other federal agencies, such as the Office of Inspector General for the US Department of Agriculture. 

Portions from Edwards’s 2020 indictment. IMAGE: US Department of Justice

“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,” according to DOJ indicting documents, referring to one of Edwards’s former subordinates who was also charged.

The original indictment also accused the pair of reconfiguring Edwards’s laptop so he could easily upload the stolen software and databases, and built a testing server at Edwards’s house.

Edwards pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, while Murali Venkata has pleaded not guilty to charges and his case remains pending.

Adam is the founding editor-in-chief of The Record by Recorded Future. He previously was the cybersecurity and privacy reporter for Protocol, and prior to that covered cybersecurity, AI, and other emerging technology for The Wall Street Journal.

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