April Fool's e-mail freed detained kidnapper

A homeland department employee's prank e-mail prompted the release of an immigration agency detainee who had been convicted of kidnapping, according to the department's inspector general.

The detainee, whom the IG's brief report on the incident did not name, turned himself in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officers two days after his improper release.

According to the IG's description of the incident, a homeland department employee sent an April Fool's e-mail to 16 ICE detention officers and supervisors advising them that the detainee's citizenship had been established with a Puerto Rican birth certificate, which authorized his release.

'At the end of the e-mail, the employee wrote, 'Now about that bridge I'm selling. April Fools!'' according to the IG. 'Nine minutes later, the employee sent a second e-mail that began by saying, 'In case you didn't get to the end of my previous message, here's what really happened today.'' The second message said that the detainee had been ordered deported to the Dominican Republic.

A homeland officer who read the first prank e-mail but did not note the April Fool's reference, and did not read the second e-mail, processed paperwork that authorized the detainee's release from a county jail on April 2. The detention officer realized the mistake on April 3 but did not report it until the morning of April 4.

'Our investigation further revealed that there is no written authority, policy and/or procedure for the approval of detainee release documents,' according to the IG. 'Practices were found to vary between groups in the same office.'

The report recommended that officials adopt written procedures

Officials of the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, which oversees ICE, placed the author of the prank on paid administrative leave between April 4 and Oct. 20, and later suspended the employee without pay from Oct. 20 through Nov. 19.

A DHS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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