FBI Raids Office of Vivek Kundra, DC CTO [5 Updates]

Kundra is Obama’s “much-lauded” pick to be the CIO of the federal government. The AP has more on this budding bribery scandal:

FBI agents are conducting a search of the offices of the District of Columbia’s chief technology officer.
The head of that office, Vivek Kundra, recently left to take a job with the Obama administration.
Katherine Schweit, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office, said a search is being conducted that is part of an ongoing investigation…
President Barack Obama named Kundra earlier this month to help oversee the ability of government computer systems to speak to each other and security for vast federal information databanks. [AP]

I know of at least one mutineer who is on the scene, right now. I’ll update this post as we learn more.

UPDATE #1 Kundra is not the target of the raid, but at least one other South Asian (an employee in his office) IS:

The FBI raided the former office of Obama administration official Vivek Kundra in a corruption probe on Thursday but Kundra is not a target of the investigation, a spokeswoman for Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said.
The FBI was searching the offices of the District of Columbia’s chief technology officer, a position formerly held by Kundra, as it investigates employees for corruption there, spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said…
Yusuf Acar, who works in the District’s technology office, and another man, Sushil Bansal, were arrested as part of the investigation, FBI spokeswoman Lindsay Godwin said, adding that the charges remain under seal. [Reuters]

Desi DRAMA. More, as we get it, as soon as I can post it (assuming Comcast’s tatti WiFi doesn’t fail me like it just did).

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UPDATE #2 Obama still hearts Kundra?

The big question for Wired readers is: Will the investigation and problems touch the much-lauded incoming tech geek? And the answer, it seems, is no.

A source close to the Obama tech team wrote to us: “Kundra will be fine. His aide will not.” [WIRED]

You sure about that?

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UPDATE #3 Long-time reader, past NetSAP-DC Jefe and long-time DC-resident Salil points out that Kundra is a Republican, and he may not be entirely safe:

Kundra may not be part of the raid, but rest assured, he’s part of the scandal (emphasis his).
The wingnuts are already clapping their hands together with glee, and somehow missing the fact that Kundra is actually a Republican. [link]

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p>UPDATE #4 As Ennis commented earlier, Kundra is now on leave. Meanwhile, reader Cherry-P points us to a comprehensive look at the scandal via WaPo:

A D.C. government official and a business executive were arrested yesterday on bribery charges involving city technology contracts that included “ghost” workers and kickbacks, federal authorities said…
In court documents released yesterday, FBI agent Andrew Sekela laid out the complicated and audacious schemes allegedly orchestrated by a mid-level manager who approved many contracts involving the city government’s technology needs.
Authorities said the conspiracy was uncovered with the help of a D.C. government employee who recorded conversations with the executive and the city official.

The Wire! (probably not applicable. still, couldn’t resist.) As for the flight risk, I mean suspect:

Yusuf Acar, 40, who has worked in the technology office since 2004, was charged with bribery, conspiracy, money laundering and conflict of interest. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Hibarger told a federal judge that Acar is a flight risk because agents seized $70,000 in cash in his house and because in recorded conversations, he boasted that he could easily flee to his native Turkey. Acar also told the informant that he could use computers to create fake D.C. birth certificates, Hibarger said.

If I had a dollar for every time someone boasted to me that they could easily flee to India… Anyway, what about the desi who is involved. That’s what you really care about, innit?

Sushil Bansal, 41, president and chief executive of the contracting firm Advanced Integrated Technologies Corp. (AITC), was charged with bribery and money laundering. He was released on personal recognizance. Federal agents said Bansal’s company received more than $13 million in revenue from the D.C. government in the past five years.

I am sometimes tempted to launder my money, because I heard it’s filthy and I’m kinda OCD. In the future, I will remind myself of the potential consequences of my squeamishness. Oh, and here’s how the scam worked:

Acar approved work with a vendor, such as Bansal’s AITC, to arrange the purchase of goods such as software. The vendor ordered fewer items but billed the District for a larger amount. Bansal, Acar and others then split the proceeds, FBI officials said.
Acar also approved fraudulent time sheets for nonexistent employees, Sekela wrote. Acar and the others split the proceeds paid by the D.C. government, Sekela alleged.
Authorities traced more than $200,000 in payments last year from Bansal’s firm to a private company, Circle Networks Inc. The firm is co-owned by Acar, even though he is prohibited from having an interest in any company doing business with the city, Sekela wrote. Circle Networks generated about $2.2 million in revenue through D.C. government contracts, the agent wrote.

What. a. mess.

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UPDATE #5 I wonder if the “source” cited by WIRED (see: update #2) who is allegedly close to the Obama team is that “close” about his prediction after all. Kundra is safe? Really? Doesn’t this seem more likely:

Vivek Kundra, President Obama’s newly appointed federal chief information officer, is not implicated in the Thursday FBI raid on his former District of Columbia government office, but it could raise questions later about his management abilities and cause a political dust-up, information technology executives said. [NextGov]

Oh, the irony. The delicious, make-Alanis-jealous irony:

While Kundra was delivering a speech on the need for transparency in IT procurements at the annual technology FOSE conference in Washington, FBI agents were arresting Yusuf Acar, an information security officer for the D.C. government who worked for Kundra when Kundra served as the District’s chief technology officer. Acar was taken into custody at his home in Washington on Thursday morning and charged with financial conflict of interest, money laundering and conspiracy. He was scheduled to be arraigned in federal court Thursday afternoon.
…the raid has the potential to cause some political problems for Kundra. “Will people question Vivek’s management? Yep. Is that fair? Nope,” said a former federal technology manager who asked to remain anonymous. “Fair isn’t part of the political process. If any hint of missed oversight arises, expect calls for his resignation. Again, not fair, but political.” [NextGov]

A huge thank you to so many of you, for keeping us up-to-date with information. Developing…

36 thoughts on “FBI Raids Office of Vivek Kundra, DC CTO [5 Updates]

  1. I am constantly amazed at how fast you guys have posts up when you can. All of you guys are doing brilliant work.

  2. Kundra may not be part of the raid, but rest assured, he’s part of the scandal.

    The wingnuts are already clapping their hands together with glee, and somehow missing the fact that Kundra is actually a Republican.

  3. Be they ever so few, the Repubs have been very busy this year in their own inimitable fashion. Kundras party affiliation/leaning hardly matters.

  4. Obama is picking people who are not experienced and in this case, an alien who does not have the US interests at heart! This is not a surprise! Look at Geistner and the others who are also criminals.

  5. 5 Bill:

    See? The wingnuts are out in force over this. I guess they can’t be bothered to read at all anymore.

    Fascinating.

  6. 4 · Amrita said

    Repubs have been very busy this year in their own inimitable fashion

    Now it is all the fault of replublicans? We really dont miss home that much now. FBI is not an agency of Republican party.

  7. 2 · Salil Maniktahla said

    The wingnuts are already clapping their hands together with glee, and somehow missing the fact that Kundra is actually a Republican.

    goddamit salil…you really know how to ruin my afternoon tea.

  8. The wingnuts are already clapping their hands together with glee, and somehow missing the fact that Kundra is actually a Republican

    Btw Sushil Bansal is not an American. I would like to know more abt the charges filed against the two. Interestingly only the desi profiles is put up on the website of AITC and not the non-desis – Hugh J. Eubanks, Chief Technology Officer and German Morales, VP, PeopleSoft Practice Manager. Anybody have info on these two guys ?

  9. It doesn’t matter if Vivek Kundra had anything to do with this. The key issue is, how important is indian culture to Mr.Kundra

  10. FBI is not an agency of Republican party

    LandBeyond, anyone can tip off the FBI to start a probe, but let me add nevertheless that the FBI doesn’t strike me as being terribly left wing at the best of times. And wouldn’t you agree that Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republicans though not of the GOP?

  11. Vivek Kundra is on leave until this is all sorted out. They’re already behind schedule at the CTO’s office and this will slow them down even further.

  12. It doesn’t matter if Vivek Kundra had anything to do with this. The key issue is, how important is indian culture to Mr.Kundra

    I know you’re being snarky, but here’s your answer.

  13. For reference, Kundra is federal chief information officer, not federal chief technology officer. The CTO hasn’t been named yet; though another desi Aneesh Chopra (Kundra’s old boss) is among those whose names have been mentioned. CTO is also likely to have fairly limited influence on policy and procurement, according to people close to the situation. CIO is the top IT job in the federal government

  14. Look at all the names involved in this scandal: Vivek Kundra, Sushil Bansal, Yusuf Acar. The right wing racists/nativists will have a field day hammering away at how these damn no-good foreigners from the third world got installed in such sensitive positions in the nation’s capital. Of course they will disregard the fact that Kundra is a Republican.

  15. Very interesting watching this play out… thanks for keeping us updated.

    When I think of desis and making money, I hate to admit but I also think of desis and their ability to “cheat” the system. I feel like so many that I know are always looking out for how to get the most they can out of any situation… like that’s perfectly normal.

  16. I suppose I should retract the “Republican” allegation, as I can find no evidence online for his actual affiliation anywhere anymore. My statement on his political affiliation was based on my personal recollection and direct experience with him from a few years ago (he is / was good friends with two of my old roommates, and I knew him “socially” back in 2002-2004).

    It could be that he’s changed sides since then, or that I am totally misremembering his stances at the time.

  17. 20 · Accidental Enlightenment said When I think of desis and making money, I hate to admit but I also think of desis and their ability to “cheat” the system.

    Me too.

    Its crazy how people from the subcontinent accept corruption like its perfectly normal. “You do what you have to do.” NO. You don’t have to do it.

    Now its up to you 2nd gen Americans to ask that nice “Uncle” with the H1B “Consultancy” exactly what he is doing, and distance yourselves from this “Indian Code of Ethics”.

  18. Vivek should resign immediately. If he knew about the illegal activity, that information will come out soon enough. If he didn’t then he is just oblivious and. Not someone who should be in a leadership position.

  19. Salil, what do you mean by “he’s part of the scandal”? Anyone who knows anything about DC knows that it is a corrupt place. Vivek came into the CTO position with the goal of making DC’s bidding and vendor contracting processes more transparent. Those calling for his immediate resignation must remember that Vivek’s initiatives helped catch these people. Vivek Kundra’s promotion of common sense and cheap tools for transparency foiled Acar’s and Bansal’s continued bilking of city taxpayers. In other words, if it had not been for Vivek’s transparency initiatives, these guys may not have been caught.

  20. Sorry folks!

    The final report is: The new CTO is HISTORY because all this happended on his WATCH if he was involved or not. He is RESPONSIBLE and ACCOUNTABLE for ALL of the staff and ALL of the budget and he failed at governance and management core competacies of a high visability CIO/CTO position. Failure is failure politics aside! This is not HOPE and TRANSPARANCY policy as a model the White House wants to represent. This is exactly the opposite!

    What a waste for the IT we were in the White House!

  21. Agreed with EssE: It’s fortunate that Vivek Kundra’s agenda for transparency within the government is exactly what helped reveal the corruption therein.

    Do we really want to push people who are helping uncover corruption out of the upper levels of government? What sort of message is this sending?

    To say the corruption was happening under Vivek Kundra’s nose is unfair. The corruption was uncovered and brought to light BECAUSE of the initiatives that Vivek Kundra was working on.

  22. “The corruption was uncovered and brought to light BECAUSE of the initiatives that Vivek Kundra was working on.”

    That’s logically flawed. Acar was Kundra’s direct report. In fact, Acar was supposedly Kundra’s interim replacement after Kundra’s departure to OMB. Acar and Bansal fleeced the District of millions of dollars right under Kundra’s nose. Where was Kundra’s oversight? In his two years on the job how was he not able to detect what as going on? The corruption was uncovered because of the FBI and a DC OCTO confidential witness working together in a year-long undercover sting operation. To attribute the success of the operation to Kundra’s “transparency initiatives” is a joke. Acar was caught red-handed and is a criminal. Kundra has been caught with his pants down and this episode clearly demonstrates that he is unfit to manage basic government IT operations, let alone to preach about the need for transparency and accountability in government.

  23. “To say the corruption was happening under Vivek Kundra’s nose is unfair. The corruption was uncovered and brought to light BECAUSE of the initiatives that Vivek Kundra was working on.”

    That’s the lamest thing I’ve heard. The sting wasn’t because of Kundra, he wasn’t aware of it even. He was busy giving a speech about transperancy at the time. :)

    The whole shameful affair was brought to light only after an OCTO employee informed the FBI about what was happening.

    If Kundra has any decency left in him, he should resign right away.

  24. That’s the lamest thing I’ve heard. The sting wasn’t because of *****, he wasn’t aware of it even. He was busy giving a speech about transperancy at the time. :) The whole shameful affair was brought to light only after ***** informed the FBI about what was happening. If ***** has any decency left in him, he should resign right away.

    It’s funny how much this sounds like the scandal involving the current same thing about corruption regrading the former governor and former abd current senator of Illinois. (Once you remove Kundra’s name.) Kundra should not resign — he seems to fit right in with the adminitration of Change.*1

    From Slashdot

    List of Obama appointees who’ve had to withdraw For future reference, the list so far: Bill Richardson: grand jury investigation for influence peddling Tom Daschle: tax evasion Nancy Killefer: tax lien on home for failing to pay unemployment tax for household workers Judd Gregg: political differences over stimulus plan Annette Nazareth: reason unspecified Caroline Atkinson: reason for withdrawal not specified Sanjay Gupta: reason unspecified People who haven’t withdrawn, but have had major issues: Hilda Solis: husband has 16 years of tax liens against his business Tim Geithner: tax problems Gary Locke: potentially-suspicious fund-raising history [michellemalkin.com] Ron Kirk: failed to pay $10,000 in back taxes Will Vivek Kundra be next on the list?

    *1 for the sarcasm impaired, that was just a snark. This comment also from slashdot is how I feel

    The guy was/is the head of that office. He either didn’t know about the corruption (as the frigging FEDERAL CIO for the country, that might be a think he’d be expected to know about corruption in his own office) or he was in on it. Either way, for me, this is 100% a bad sign and should raise a huge red flag.
  25. 26 · EssE said

    Salil, what do you mean by “he’s part of the scandal”? Anyone who knows anything about DC knows that it is a corrupt place. Vivek came into the CTO position with the goal of making DC’s bidding and vendor contracting processes more transparent. Those calling for his immediate resignation must remember that Vivek’s initiatives helped catch these people. Vivek Kundra’s promotion of common sense and cheap tools for transparency foiled Acar’s and Bansal’s continued bilking of city taxpayers. In other words, if it had not been for Vivek’s transparency initiatives, these guys may not have been caught.

    Labeling DC as a “corrupt place” is a form of dismissive generalization that I simply can’t abide. Is San Francisco a “corrupt place?” How about L.A? New York?

    I also disagree with the notions that Kundra must be presumed guilty OR innocent, simply because this happened on his watch, under his roof. He has not been charged (though FBI probes tend to start lower down and work their way up by exerting pressure and working out plea bargains, so there might be a qualified “yet” at the end of this sentence). The jury isn’t even out on this one; all anyone outside the FBI can do is assume and imagine.

    I will only say that politically, he seems to have flip-flopped rather severely, since several years ago he was stumping very hard for Bobby Jindal (hence my presumption that he was a Republican). Were I an Obama senior staffer, I’d have tried to vet for that sort of thing.

    And DizzyDesi, you sure do smear with a broad brush. Sanjay Gupta AND Caroline Atkinson? Boy, the corruption must run deep! How can these people live with themselves, having withdrawn from a nomination? Maybe we should offer every political appointee nominee a wakazashi to fall on in case they decide not to go through with it, huh?

  26. Both vivek and his sister were charged and pleaded guilty for criminal charges of theft just over 10 years ago – public records, Montgomery County, Maryland. Look it up… Vivek should resign

  27. What did the FBI agent say to Vivek? Answer: I can see right through you.

    Transparent government at its best…

  28. Salil,

    A lot of Indian-American Democrats were stumping hard for Jindal. And, as weird as it seems, some Indian-American Democrats still stump for, and give money to, Jindal. Ah… the politics of race… but that is a side issue.

    Vivek is back on the job:

    Chief Information Officer Is Quietly Reinstated

    Vivek Kundra, who was on leave from his new appointment by President Obama as the federal government’s chief information officer, has been reinstated, the White House said today.

    White House officials confirmed to The New York Times that Mr. Kundra had been reinstated today; it was first reported this afternoon by Techpresident.com without confirmation.

    The reinstatement comes a few days after F.B.I. agents had raided his former office at the District of Columbia’s technology department. Mr. Kundra was not a target of the raid. A former employee of his, Yusuf Acar, has been charged with bribery. The F.B.I. said that Mr. Kundra was not implicated in the bribery case, but he took a leave from his new federal job anyway.

    The reinstatement comes as word was swirling around the Internet about a youthful arrest of Mr. Kundra for a theft involving something of less than $300 in value. Asked if Mr. Kundra had revealed the arrest during the White House vetting process, officials said they would not discuss the process but pointed out that the reinstatement should speak for itself.