Favoritism, cover-ups reveal culture of corruption in US Capitol Police leadership


Corruption is endemic at the highest levels of the United States Capitol Police, especially among the special agents and officers who serve in the department’s dignitary protection detail, a Blaze Media investigation has found.

Internal discipline reports show a pattern of officers failing upward. Proven instances of fraud, forgery, theft, perjury, and drunk driving on duty going back to the late 1990s led to promotions rather than dismissals and prosecutions, discipline reports obtained by Blaze Media show.

High-ranking USCP officials, including a present-day deputy chief and an assistant chief, were implicated and faced discipline and possible termination in a fraudulent overtime pay scheme that defrauded the government of tens of thousands of dollars, according to documents obtained by Blaze Media and a former Capitol Police sergeant. A lieutenant involved in the scam left the Capitol Police and now works for the U.S. Senate sergeant at arms.

Suspensions for felonies

National Journal first reported on the overtime scheme in July 2014 but did not name the officers involved.

The National Journal story relied in part on the account of Rhoda Henderson, a retired USCP sergeant and whistleblower. In an exclusive interview with Blaze Media, Henderson confirmed that the officers involved were current USCP Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher, current Deputy Chief John Erickson, and Wendy Colmore, who is now director of central operations for the U.S. Senate sergeant at arms.

Gallagher was a captain with the dignitary protection detail and the alleged “ringleader” at the time of the payroll scheme, while Erickson and Colmore were both lieutenants under Gallagher’s command.

Henderson told Blaze Media that the scheme lasted “for at least a year,” and while she wasn’t involved in the crime’s audit, the three officers stole well in excess of $10,000 from the USCP. She also explained that USCP authorities first doubted her story until she was able to produce the paper trail of the scheme.

Blaze Media inquired whether there had ever been any follow-up to this story from any other D.C. media. Henderson explained that her interview with National Journal reporter Bill House was the only other time she had been contacted by a journalist before now.

Henderson reiterated to Blaze Media that her disappointment with the USCP’s leadership in how they handled these “felonies” — crimes for which the three officers should have been “terminated” — was her reason for speaking to National Journal, adding, “They look out for each other, the higher rank you go.” She said, “To me, it’s always been, ‘I’ll cover up your sins if you cover up mine.’”

Henderson said she “had initially brought the questionable overtime billing by the three supervisors to department officials starting in the summer of 2012. She said that included talking to the Internal Affairs Division (now called the Office of Professional Responsibility) and the Capitol Police Office of Inspector General.” She also provided the department’s officials with all the documentation necessary to support her claims.

According to National Journal, “Henderson said she began monitoring what appeared to her to be inappropriate ‘time shifting’ by the supervisors of their overtime hours ‘behind my back’ on their biweekly pay records in January 2010.”

As a result of the investigation, the three officers were suspended, documents obtained by Blaze Media show and a source close to the investigation confirmed.

“Had this been me or any other officer (those not part of command staff) who would have committed this crime — we would have been fired. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Henderson told National Journal in 2014. “Nor would we have been allowed to sit in our jobs for more than a year without a decision being made.”

From forgery to assistant chief

In the course of our investigation, Blaze Media obtained 22 pages of USCP documents related to the department’s investigations of Gallagher, Erickson, and Colmore. The details are shocking.

A USCP memorandum dated July 11, 2013, reveals that when questioned by departmental investigators, then-Captain Gallagher claimed that the scheme was Colmore’s idea. However, Gallagher was the supervisor for both Colmore and Erickson, and Gallagher should have been fully aware of the illegality and violation of department rules represented by this scheme. It would have been his responsibility — even if Colmore’s “idea” — to stop the conspiracy in its tracks. Instead, he fully engaged in the scheme himself, the documents show and a source close to the investigation confirmed.

From the memorandum:

All three claim that this was not a conspiracy. What was it then? Ask them what they call it when three people all agree to backfill overtime and not inform their chain of command.

In fact, in the biweekly submission of the overtime pay requests, it was Gallagher — as Erikson’s and Colmore’s supervisor — who had to sign off on the fraudulent requests, documents show and a source close to the investigation confirmed.

The USCP documents reveal even more damning behavior by Gallagher, who was promoted to inspector immediately after his three-year disciplinary probation ended in 2016. To keep the “backfilling” of the overtime scheme concealed, investigators discovered that Gallagher forged the name of his supervisor, Inspector Daniel B. Malloy, on his own overtime pay submissions. Investigators noted that Gallagher always used a pen with different-colored ink from that of his own signature when forging his supervisor’s.

In a 2012 Office of Professional Responsibility investigation, which also involved allegations of forgery, Gallagher “claimed that his forgery of his supervisors [sic] signature never resulted in personal gain.” According to USCP standards, lying to OPR is itself a “terminable” act.

The subject line of another USCP memo, dated December 18, 2013, read: “Penalty Assessment-Captain Gallagher, OPR#13-061. From the memorandum, and for having defrauded the government of more than $10,000.”

According to the memo:

The offense is egregious and absent any mitigating factors, warrants nothing less than termination. This offense was willful and frequent, occurring on eight occasions. Captain Gallagher misrepresented his times, forged his supervisor’s signature on overtime authorization forms, falsified pay certification sheets, and forged his supervisor’s signature on pay certification sheets to defraud the government for significant personal gain.

The same memo refers to a prior OPR investigation of Gallagher in 2012, in which he had been disciplined for forging his supervisor’s name on other documents.

Yet Gallagher was not fired. Instead, he was supposed to be demoted to lieutenant and ordered to reimburse the department for “all the pay he received as a result of his misconduct.”

How did Gallagher manage to keep his job?

A Capitol Police source close to the investigation who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation said Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine intervened in Gallagher’s case. Dine, who retired in 2015 after a contentious three-year tenure, reassigned the disposition of Gallagher’s discipline to the very supervisor whose name he had forged: Daniel Malloy.

Malloy moved up the ranks quickly following the initial discovery of Gallagher’s crimes in 2010. In 2011, Malloy was assigned as inspector of the Uniformed Services Bureau’s Capitol division. One year later, he was promoted to deputy chief and assumed command of the Operational Services Bureau.

The anonymous USCP source said to the best of his recollection, Gallagher did not even receive the recommended demotion. He remained on the job as a captain, was given a 10-day suspension without pay, and then was immediately promoted to the rank of inspector when his three-year disciplinary period expired.

Gallagher took command of the dignitary protection division in 2018. In October 2023, he was promoted to assistant chief of police for uniformed operations, where he “oversees all the officers posted at security checkpoints, the command center at headquarters, and specialized teams, including the SWAT and canine teams,” according to a Roll Call story announcing his new job.

From fraud to sergeant at arms

According to the USCP documents we obtained, the internal affairs investigation found that Lt. Wendy Colmore “defrauded the government of $6,870” and concluded: “The offense is egregious and absent any mitigating factors, warrants nothing less than termination.”

In a disciplinary memo dated December 18, 2013, investigators concluded that Colmore had asked a superior officer about the appropriateness of the overtime backfilling scheme. She was advised that it was against regulations, and yet — with this knowledge — only a few weeks later, she began taking part in the conspiracy.

An internal affairs investigation of Colmore in 2000 resulted in a “sustained charge of conduct unbecoming.”

Yet Colmore was not fired in spite of investigators’ conclusion that her offense clearly qualified for termination. In the end, she only received a recommendation of demotion to sergeant. According to another unnamed USCP source familiar with the case, Colmore resigned from the department soon afterward and eventually took a position with the U.S. Senate sergeant at arms.

John Erickson of the U.S. Capitol Police speaks during a House Administration Committee briefing.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

From drunk driving to deputy chief

The case of Lt. John Erickson is far more complex and troubling. By the time of his penalty assessment memorandum — also dated December 18, 2013 — Erickson had already been promoted to captain. What makes his eventual ascent to deputy chief is confounding to the extreme.

The memorandum stated that “Captain Erickson is an outstanding employee.” But other department officers refer to him as “Teflon John,” the source close to the investigation said. Erickson has an especially checkered disciplinary record yet has somehow managed to continue his ascent in rank and recognition.

In July 1997, while working on a detail in San Antonio for then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Erickson was arrested on drunk-driving charges. Deseret News reported that Erickson “was found in a government-rented convertible, parked on a roadside at 3:25 a.m. with ‘his head on his chest, passed out, extremely intoxicated,’” according to a police report, which also noted his slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and “strong breath odor of intoxicants.”

“He refused to take a breath test and was released after spending several hours in jail,” the story said.

Erickson was given a warning and suspended without pay for 10 days.

In 2002, Erickson was involved in another alcohol-related car wreck. The Washington Post reported Erickson “crashed his car into a parked Maryland State Police cruiser, injuring the trooper.”

Erickson was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and given a “last chance agreement, in lieu of termination.” He was also suspended without pay for 30 days.

Despite the seriousness of his participation in the overtime fraud scheme — and considering his disciplinary history — Erickson received only a recommendation of a 20-day suspension and was ordered to reimburse the government for an undetermined sum.

Once again, Dine and Malloy had intervened, according to the anonymous source within the Capitol Police.

Jim Konczos, chairman of the Capitol Police Labor Committee’s executive board at the time of the overtime fraud investigation, told National Journal, “If these allegations are true, this is criminal in nature, not administrative by any means.”

“This conduct should result in termination, nothing less. We can’t have supervisors stealing time and/or money. This conduct, besides being criminal, impairs the efficiency and reputation of the department,” Konczos said in a statement.

“There is a culture in the department in which supervisors are held to a lower standard, even when the conduct is criminal, that is completely unacceptable,” he added.

Current USCP Labor Committee Chairman Gus Papathanasiou told Blaze Media that he fully concurs with Konczos’ 2014 statement.

‘Traingate’

Three former USCP officers who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity said Gallagher was also involved in a strange internal scandal — though “scandal” may be too strong a word — that came to be known as “Traingate.”

A fourth, former USCP Captain Eric Keenan, was the only officer disciplined as a result of an investigation into the practice. He explained to Blaze Media how more than 400 Capitol Police personnel would receive free rides on the Maryland Area Rail Commuter train and Virginia Railway Express with the understanding they would report suspicious activity and offer their services in response to emergencies.

Keenan said it was a “mutually beneficial program” between the two railways and law enforcement.

By riding the trains for free, the officers enjoyed significant savings in fuel and parking expenses. MARC and VRE even issued laminated rail passes to officers who were willing to engage in basic training on railway security measures and other procedures. Other agencies, including the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Secret Service, also participated.

Although the practice was well known — some USCP commanders even encouraged lower-ranking officers to take advantage of the cost savings — it technically ran afoul of department regulations.

Keenan, who left the department in 2020 after 24 years and now works for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Bombing Prevention, said the informal program “was going well” in late 2018, when an unnamed male officer who did not have a laminated pass flashed his badge to receive a free ride.

Flashing a badge to obtain free services of any kind — “whether to receive free train rides, lunches, coffee, or donuts,” Keenan said — is against policy. Among law enforcement, the practice is called “rolling the gold.”

A MARC conductor notified USCP’s Capitol division, which then referred the infraction to the Office of Professional Responsibility and, in Keenan’s words, “set off a firestorm.”

As the internal affairs investigation got under way, Keenan said he emailed the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee decrying what he called a “witch hunt” and using other disparaging language directed at investigating officers. Keenan’s email was forwarded by the labor union to then-Chief Matthew R. Verderosa, which led to disciplinary action against Keenan for “conduct unbecoming” a USCP officer. He was suspended for three days.

Keenan said he was only trying to protect the officers under his command who he believed could be hurt unfairly by Verderosa’s “feigned horror” at a “faux scandal.”

Failing upward

Traingate ultimately revealed systemic favoritism and corruption within USCP leadership, as the investigation found many of senior leadership’s “most favored” officers had received free rides. Two names that Keenan mentioned were former Assistant Chief Yogananda Pittman and current Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher.

USCP leadership didn’t wish to punish their more favored high-ranking officers who had participated in the program. Keenan explained that disciplining the lower-ranking officers and not those of higher rank would have created “a real firestorm,” so USCP leadership issued a general letter of reprimand to everyone involved.

Something that shouldn’t have been a scandal in the first place was quietly swept under the rug — except for Keenan, who raised objections to the “witch hunt.”

Keenan speculated that Traingate received no media attention before now “because it was nothing more than a peer-to-peer program between the railways and the individual officers.”

But what seems like a fairly innocuous story reveals something even more telling within the USCP hierarchy, especially if we examine the difference between the career arcs of Keenan and Gallagher.

Keenan was frank in his assessments of Sean Gallagher’s career with the USCP. He says that from “day one” of Gallagher’s employment with the Capitol Police, he became “the golden boy who could do no wrong.”

Except Gallagher did many wrongs: multiple forgeries of his supervisor’s signature, theft of government funds, fraud, and lying to internal affairs investigators about his crimes. All “terminable” violations, according to USCP policies. All “felonies,” as described by Rhoda Henderson, that should have been referred to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation and prosecution.

But Gallagher was never fired. Other than a brief interruption, his rise through the ranks continued undeterred.

Keenan told Blaze Media that he was also being considered for promotion to inspector in 2016, but the department passed him over in favor of Gallagher. At the time, Keenan’s record was unblemished — Traingate hadn’t happened yet. Meanwhile, Gallagher’s file was thick with felonious scandal.

Although promotions from sergeant through captain are vetted through an outside agency, Keenan said the process of rising to inspector through assistant chief “is basically a popularity contest,” which includes the input of Congress members “and the committees they represent.”

Gallagher was the “golden boy” who spent years on the dignitary protection detail, which gave him access to high-ranking congressional leadership. What kind of leverage did he have within the department and over individual Congress members who would have helped guide his ascent to assistant chief, despite his disciplinary record?

A 21st-century Praetorian Guard?

After dozens of interviews with current and former USCP personnel, a pattern of corruption and constant cover-ups begins to emerge.

The U.S. Capitol Police are the personal security guards of our nation’s elected legislators. Special agents assigned to the dignitary protection detail are in close contact with their charges. They know all the indiscretions — large and small — of the members they protect. They know who they’re sleeping with and when. They know their preferred but perhaps unstated sexual preferences. They know their drugs of choice.

In short, the U.S. Capitol Police know “where the bodies are buried” and who buried them. This gives them tremendous power — power even over the outcome of controversial or closely contested legislation.

Maybe even power over the ultimate direction of our nation.

The Praetorian Guard was a special unit of the Roman army assigned to protect the emperor of Rome. Over time, the guards developed the power to overthrow the emperors they were supposed to safeguard and even select their successors. Does history repeat?

When I first started investigating the events of January 6, 2021, I did not know where the trail would lead, but the whiff of corruption was strong. In December 2022, a colleague introduced me to former Capitol Police Lt. Tarik Johnson.

Johnson has been an invaluable source in helping cast light on not only the heroics of that day — including Johnson’s own actions — but also the seemingly deliberate string of failures from the USCP command center.

Most importantly, Johnson has never lied to me.

And yet even though I know Johnson to be a truth-teller, I struggled to believe one of his repeated assertions: “You don’t understand how powerful the Capitol Police are.” How could a law enforcement agency that displayed such top-down incompetence on the afternoon of January 6 be so powerful and evoke such fear that even retired officers are reluctant to speak on the record?

Because they fear retribution, even now.

“Steve … I’ve tried to tell you how powerful the Capitol Police are.” I believe Tarik Johnson now.

Blaze Media’s investigation into Capitol Police corruption will continue.



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