Three DHS Employees Sentenced for Stealing Government Software

Three former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees were sentenced last week in the District of Columbia for a conspiracy to steal proprietary software and sensitive law-enforcement databases from the U.S. government for use in a commercial venture.

Charles K. Edwards, 63, of Sandy Spring, MD, was sentenced to one year and six months in prison. In January 2022, Edwards pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft of government property and to defraud the United States and theft of government property.

Sonal Patel, 49, of Sterling, VA, was sentenced to two years of probation. In April 2019, Patel pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft of government property.

Murali Y. Venkata, 58, of Aldie, VA, was sentenced to four months in prison. In April 2022, a jury convicted Venkata of conspiracy to commit theft of government property and to defraud the United States, theft of government property, wire fraud, and destruction of records.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Edwards was the former Acting Inspector General of the DHS Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG). Patel and Venkata were employed in DHS-OIG’s information technology department. Edwards, Patel, and Venkata were all previously employed at the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG). Edwards, Patel, and Venkata conspired to steal proprietary U.S. software and databases containing sensitive law-enforcement information and the personally identifiable information (PII) of over 200,000 federal employees from DHS-OIG and USPS-OIG. They planned to use the stolen software and databases to create a commercial software product to be offered for sale to government agencies. As part of the scheme, the co-conspirators disclosed the stolen software and databases containing PII to software developers located in India. After Venkata learned of the investigation, he deleted incriminating text messages and other communications in an effort to obstruct the investigation.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia, Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari of DHS-OIG, and Executive Special Agent in Charge Michael Ray of USPS-OIG made the announcement.

DHS-OIG and USPS-OIG investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Celia Choy of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section (PIN) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Macey for the District of Columbia prosecuted the case, with significant assistance from former PIN Senior Litigation Counsel Victor Salgado and former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kent.