The former chief strategy officer for the U.S. Agency for Global Media is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 11 in U.S. District Court in Virginia for felony theft of government funds.
Haroon K. Ullah, a former State Department employee, admitted to cheating his employer out of at least $37,082.49, prosecutors say.
Ullah is a “recognized expert in countering violent extremism,” according to a June 13 statement of facts filed in court.
He wrote the 2017 book, “Digital World War: Islamists, Extremists, and the Fight for Cyber Supremacy.”
From February 2018 through October 2018, Ullah submitted “multiple falsified hotel invoices; falsified taxi receipts; double-billed third party sponsors and USAGM for the same trips; and billed USAGM for personal trips, either to promote his book, or for week-end trips during with little to no USAGM business was conducted,” according to prosecutors.
Ullah faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He admitted his guilt as part of a plea agreement and will likely receive a reduced sentence.
The Agency for Global Media manages Radio y Televisión Martí, the Voice of America and other networks. As chief strategy officer, Ullah focused on “strategic planning and initiatives to make the Agency more strategically relevant in the national security, foreign affairs, and global media spheres.”
Records show his salary in 2018 was $165,000, up from $127,036 in earnings at the State Department in 2016.
Ullah submitted travel receipts through a system called E2 Solutions.
The statement of facts said:
Sometimes Ullah had stayed with a family member or friend or at a budget hotel, but he created the false invoices for the purposes of financial gain in order to maximize his reimbursement from USAGM. With other hotel invoices, Ullah took a legitimate hotel invoice and changed his address or other data in order to conceal that the hotel room had been paid by a third party, which fact Ullah intentionally failed to disclose to E2 and USAGM.
Ullah also frequently submitted false taxi receipts and falsified Uber receipts, claiming, for instance, over $70 in taxi fare rides between his Arlington home and Reagan National Airport, but that his Uber records showed truly (sic) cost approximately $12-$16 per ride.
As part of a scheme to obtain business class travel to which he was not entitled, Ullah also submitted to USAGM a falsified and forged letter from a real medical doctor, identified here by the initials N.A., claiming that Ullah required an upgrade to business class because of a medical condition that required him to “lie flat” on long flights. The doctor confirmed to law enforcement that the letter was a forgery; that he did not authorize Ullah to use his identity or to sign his name for him; and that a business class upgrade for Ullah’s sore knee was not medically necessary. By using the doctor’s identity, Ullah defrauded USAGM of all payments for business class upgrades, some of which were substantial, as they involved international flights. For instance, on or about July 23, 2018, Ullah received reimbursement for business class to Cologne, Germany, for over $1,600 in upgrades as a result of the fraudulent doctor’s letter.
Ullah also billed the government for an international flight to Muscat, Oman, claiming it was for USAGM business, when in truth and in fact, he stayed with his sister. In connection with the Oman trip. Ullah also submitted a falsified hotel invoice.
Altogether, Ullah intended to defraud USAGM of more than $40,000. Ullah caused actual losses to the government of at least $37,082.49, which Ullah acknowledges constitute proceeds of crime and are subject to orders of forfeiture and restitution.
At the same time Ullah was submitting falsified invoices to USAGM, he was also submitting a falsified home repair estimate and false lien release to Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in connection with repairs to his home in Alexandria, Virginia, for tree damage. Ullah used without lawful authority or permission the identity of a true real estate agent who works in the Eastern District of Virginia, to create the false construction estimate and lien release. Ullah also submitted to Liberty Mutual an altered residential lease and falsified repair invoices, in order to maximize his insurance claims and minimize the amount he actually paid to contractors to renovate and repair the home.
“Dr. Ullah has done so much for the United States through his myriad contributions in the fight against terrorism,” his lawyer Mark Schamel said in a statement published in the Washington Post. “This case will not define him and all that he has done in saving American lives. Dr. Ullah is a dedicated patriot and he will continue to find ways to contribute to national security.”
Ullah’s biography states:
He teaches at Georgetown University and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as senior Harvard University Belfer Fellow, where he completed his graduate coursework at the Kennedy School of Government and won a Peabody Award for his TV animation Burka Avenger. He has a PhD from the University of Michigan and was a William J. Fulbright Fellow, a Harvard University Presidential Scholar, and a Woodrow Wilson Public Service Fellow.
Ullah’s website says he has advised three Secretaries of State, “traveled with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and started the first countering violent extremism office at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
I’d be curious to see his expense reports from his travels while at the State Department.
Court records show Ullah cooperated with authorities. He waived his right to an indictment and pled guilty to Count 1 of a complaint, also known as a “criminal information.” The single count was theft of government funds, a felony.
Ullah was freed on a $25,000 bond and surrendered his passport.
Sentencing is set for 9 a.m. Oct. 11 in U.S. District Court, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, Virginia.