An internal investigation of the U.S. Marshals Service determined that lax oversight allowed the agency to spend nearly $800,000 on "swag" items like silk scarves, blankets and Christmas ornaments.
The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General reported Tuesday that the Marshals Service spent $793,118 on such "promotional items" between 2005 and 2010.
The inspector general called the expenditures "excessive" and contrary to policies of the Justice Department, which oversees the marshals.
Expenditures cited in the report included $115,081 for challenge coins, $36,596 for lapel pins, $11,338 for neckties and silk scarves "bearing the USMS seal," $13,605 on USMS-themed Christmas ornaments and $16,084 on USMS labeled blankets and throws.
Marshal Service officials said the items were used as gifts to publicize the service. They were often exchanged with other law enforcement agencies, given to agency employees to "build morale" or given as gifts for retirements and other occasions.
The challenge coins were issued by the Sex Offender Investigation Branch to remind recipients that the division "was available to assist local law enforcement agencies with unregistered sex offenders." But the coins listed the name of the division and nothing else "and therefore might not be considered a necessary expense," the report said.
Investigators found that the Marshals Service gave $149 lamb wool blankets and $125 crystal statutes as gifts for retirees.
The inspector general recommended that the Marshals Service review its policy for purchasing promotional items, inventory all of its swag and "enhance its new internal controls" to ensure compliance.