Fraudulent Credit Card Charges Lead to Indictment

Misuse of government charge cards can lead to significant legal problems. Three people have pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to fraudulently charge federal credit cards. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000 with additional severe penalties for theft of government money.

A 47-count indictment has been unsealed charging Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Michael J. Kittson, 34, and Customs Patrol Officer Douglas R. Bothof, 41, both of Tucson, Arizona with conspiracy, theft of government money, wire fraud and bribery. Kittson and Bothof surrendered without incident to special agents with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG).

U.S. Attorney Diane J. Humetewa stated, "Law enforcement officers have sworn to uphold and enforce the law. Those officers who violate the public’s trust will be thoroughly investigated and appropriately charged."

The indictment alleges that Kittson, Bothof, and a third officer authorized the fraudulent charging of Border Patrol credit cards for $55,479 in personal goods and services, including paint and body work, tires, exhaust systems, programmers and other work on their personal vehicles, tool boxes, tools, children’s mini-motorcyles, thousands of dollars in gift cards, numerous pairs of expensive sunglasses, expensive ATV helmets and services to vehicles belonging to relatives and friends.

Three co-conspirators have pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme. On April 30, 2009, former Customs Patrol Officer Curtis W. Heim pleaded guilty to an information charging theft of government money. On June 15, 2009, Dustin Curley, a former employee of the automotive repair shop where part of the scheme occurred, pleaded guilty to an information charging misprision of a felony.

On June 19, 2009, Jack Lundell, the former manager of the same automotive repair shop, pleaded guilty to an information charging aiding and abetting theft of government money. The investigation revealed the company Lundell and Curley worked for had no knowledge or involvement in the illegitimate activities of its employees. Heim, Curley and Lundell are released on bond and will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frank R. Zapata at a later date.

A conviction for conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine or both; for theft government money a maximum penalty of 10 years, a $250,000 fine or both; for wire fraud a maximum penalty of 20 years, a $250,000 fine or both; and for bribery a maximum penalty of 15 years, a $250,000 fine or both.

The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by DHS-OIG, with assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The prosecution is being handled by Mary Sue Feldmeier, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Tucson.

The Department of Justice notes that all persons charged with a crime are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.