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Feds suspend a Homeland Security chief following raid on his Michigan home

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). (Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Released)

The head of Homeland Security in Michigan and Ohio has been suspended following a search of his home by federal internal affairs investigators, his lawyer said.

The focus of the investigation is unclear but raises questions about the conduct of Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Vance Callender, 49, of Royal Oak. He is tasked with helping prevent terrorism, protecting the country’s international borders and combating a range of federal crimes, including child pornography and sex trafficking.

His home was searched Jan. 28 by agents with Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, Callender’s lawyer, Nick Oberheiden, told The Detroit News.

Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit have recused themselves and the investigation is being handled out of Chicago to avoid any conflict of interest.

The federal search warrant that would outline probable cause for the raid, and specify the nature of the investigation, is sealed in federal court.

Callender, meanwhile, has been placed on administrative leave, Oberheiden said.

“That was motivated so as to not influence or hinder or in any way participate in the investigation,” Oberheiden said Wednesday while also addressing his client’s state of mind. “He’s well-spirited.”

He believes Callender is being paid during the suspension.

Oberheiden declined to talk about the focus of the investigation or what, if anything, was seized during the search.

“We don’t participate in discussions that could infringe upon the presumption of innocence,” Oberheiden said. “I can confirm we have entered a dialogue with investigators.”

One witness to the search said as many as 15 investigators spent about six hours at Callender’s pea-green Colonial east of downtown Royal Oak.

“As public servants working for a law enforcement agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes allegations of misconduct very seriously,” an ICE spokeswoman said earlier this week.

“Any allegations of misconduct are appropriately investigated, and any employee, regardless of rank or seniority, who has committed provable misconduct, will be held accountable.”

The Office of Inspector General provides independent oversight of Homeland Security. Criminal charges are infrequent.

In 2018, for example, investigations led to 103 arrests, 133 indictments and 76 convictions, according to department data.

Callender has spent 26 years in law enforcement and has overseen Homeland Security operations in Michigan and Ohio since January 2020.

He previously served as the department’s operations chief for Europe, Canada and Mexico. Most recently, Callender was tapped to coordinate Operation Allies Welcome, a department effort to resettle Afghan refugees. The operation is headquartered at Fort McCoy, a U.S. Army base in Wisconsin.


(c) 2022 The Detroit News

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