WASHINGTON - One of the country's top law enforcement agencies is being accused by the government's own auditors of wasting tax dollars.
A new internal investigation found the U.S. Marshals Service spent nearly $800,000 on fancy gifts.
For example, you might not know there's a collectable U.S. Marshals Service Christmas ornament, but your tax dollars paid for hundreds of them.
"We're talking about a whole new level of spending here and a whole new level of waste," said Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union.
Altogether, an Inspector General's investigation found $793,000 spent on gifts and trinkets in the marshals service, from silk scarves and neck ties to a six-figure budget for commemorative coins.
But Cindy Cnrek said she knows
first-hand that these gifts do serve a purpose.
"I think the big number is scary," Cnrek said. "I gave my grandson a little patch from the government and it was a treasure to him."
Government auditors said the problem is the marshals service went overboard. The report said, "The growth in spending on promotional items was the result of the absence of internal controls, accountability and good judgment."
The report said the spending increased dramatically. For every dollar the marshals service spent on promotional items in 2005, it spent $9 in 2010.
Sepp said that's out of control spending.
"Even in Washington, D.C., a 975 percent spending increase is something that ought to raise eyebrows. It ought to raise tempers as well," Sepp said.
We reached out to the marshals service and they said because of the complaints, they've changed policies and cut back spending dramatically, from more than $300,000 in gifts in 2010, down to just $200 last year.
The marshal's service said new oversight and procedures are in place to keep the spending under control in the future.