Top Dallas ICE agent quits under cloud of controversy

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on March 21, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 21 at 10:14 PM

NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE

DALLAS — Nuria Prendes, the top agent in Dallas for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has resigned under a cloud of controversy.

News 8 has learned her department is under investigation for possibly mishandling cash belonging to immigration detainees.

ICE standards require that detainees' money will be "safeguarded for the duration of their detention," and ICE will "return funds" when a detainee is released or transferred.

Sources say the local ICE office of Detention and Removal is under a federal investigation for failing to return some of that money to detainees when they are released.

"If you're systematically keeping money from people — as a jailer, as a holding facility — and then you're taking that money for your own personal gain or the gain of the organization, that's called theft. That is absolutely right," said Robert Taylor, a criminology professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Sources say the oversight of ICE director Nuria Prendes may be one of questions raised in that investigation. Last year, her office was responsible for removing 16,000 illegal immigrants from the country.

Last Friday, Prendes announced she will retire at the end of the month.

ICE says Prendes is currently on leave and will not return. She was not at her home on Tuesday, when News 8 went to see her, and she has not returned our messages seeking comment.

Sources also tell News 8 that Prendes' chief deputy and two other local ICE officials have been transferred out of the office. In addition, agents from the federal Office of the Inspector General are in town investigating, sources said.

"The heart of that investigation will be, you know... if you were willing to take money from people amounting to a few hundred dollars — or not even that much — then what were you willing to do for larger amounts of money?" Taylor asked.

An ICE spokesman told News 8 the agency does not confirm or deny the existence of internal investigations.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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