Published on: Thursday, May 26, 2022

A federal probation officer in Columbus received Xanax pills and other compensation in exchange for not reporting people she supervised who were dealing drugs between 2016 and 2018, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court this week (article available here).

Helwa H. Qasem, 45, also impeded a Columbus police investigation into one of the offenders, who was allegedly dealing cocaine and heroin, according to court documents. Qasem warned the offender about a confidential informant the police had looking into the offender. 

According to court documents, between 2016 and 2018 on multiple occasions, Qasem extorted property and services from at least four individuals under her parole supervision in exchange for not reporting them for unlawful possession and distribution of Xanax. She received Xanax pills for personal use as well as cash, goods and free or discounted services an offender arranged for, including home repairs, car repair and moving services.

Qasem pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court Sothern District of Ohio in Columbus to one count of extortion under color of official right, a felony. Qasem left her job as a probation officer about three years ago. The incidents from when she was a federal probation officer came to light and were investigated only a few months ago.

Qasem has been employed by the city of Columbus since July 2021, first with the Columbus Public Health Department and then the Department of Public Safety since March, where she was a Management Analyst II. She was placed on administrative leave on April 22 when the department received notice of the pending federal investigation. She resigned on Monday.