Investigators: US Wildlife Official Broke Law with Grants

Investigators say senior official at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded $324,000 in conservation grants to a nonprofit where his wife worked as a contractor

By Molly Priddy

BILLINGS — Investigators say a senior official at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service broke the law with his involvement in awarding $324,000 in conservation grants to a nonprofit where his wife worked as a contractor.

Details on the conflict of interest determination involving Richard Ruggiero were revealed in a report released Tuesday by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General.

Investigators say that as chief of the agency’s international conservation division Ruggiero made a series of grant awards and extensions to the International Fund for Animal Welfare beginning in 2014.

The Inspector General’s office says the awards improperly benefited Ruggiero’s wife, Heather Eves, a wildlife biologist who was paid by the group.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift says Ruggiero is on leave pending disciplinary action.

Ruggiero could not be reached for comment.

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