Josh Goodman and Jim Mustian reported exclusively that a federal watchdog is investigating whether the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration under chief Anne Milgram improperly used millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to flout normal governing hiring procedures and bring in her past associates at a very high cost.
The two got their break when they followed up on a previous scoop about the arrest of former DEA agent Jose Irizarry, who confessed to laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and skimming millions of dollars from asset seizures and informants.
After an external review of the DEA’s foreign operations was slammed for underplaying its scandals, Latin America reporter Goodman and investigative reporter Mustian began asking questions.
What they found was that a Washington law firm that was hired as part of a no-bid contract did the review and that its author was the former right-hand man to one of Milgram’s closest friends, former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. That led to more reporting, more questions and more sources talking about how the DEA used other no-bid contracts to hire Milgram’s past associates.
In the end, Goodman and Mustian’s reporting revealed details of the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s investigation, which showed Milgram hired at least a dozen people from her days as New Jersey attorney general and New York University law professor.
Some of those hires now handle intelligence, data analytics, community outreach and public relations — work often requiring security clearances and traditionally done by DEA’s own 9,000-person workforce.
Reaction to the story was swift: Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Milgram demanding that she provide more information to address the “serious allegations” and “clear the air.”
AP’s story, reported with help from news researcher Rhonda Shafner, moved with a key takeaways sidebar and was translated into Spanish. It got strong play on the APNews app and prominent placement on the Washington Post, CBS and NBC news websites, as well as retweets from fellow law enforcement reporters at The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
For their expert source reporting that holds accountable the DEA and its highest-ranking official, Goodman and Mustian win this week’s Best of the Week — First Winner.