Ex-EPA Official Who Faked CIA Jobs Gets 32-Month Sentence

A former high-ranking U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official who skipped years of work by faking assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency was sentenced to 32 months in prison for stealing government property.

John Beale, 65, collected paychecks from about 2000 through this year despite absences from work totaling about 2 1/2 years that he explained by falsely claiming he was working for the CIA.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle sentenced Beale today in Washington, calling his actions “unbelievably egregious” and “blatantly fraudulent.”

Beale’s crime “really is a stain on the entire federal workforce,” Huvelle said. She declined to fine him, saying “he is paying a hefty amount in every which way.” Beale has paid back $886,186 and agreed to forfeit about $507,000 more.

Beale’s actions were driven by greed and his fraud was of historic proportions, James Smith, the prosecutor in the case, told the judge before she passed sentence. Beale’s “lies have turned him into a poster child for what is wrong with the federal government,” Smith said.

Minister’s Son

Beale, a minister’s son, acknowledged his deceit and admitted that he had let down colleagues who put him in a position of trust.

“I abused and betrayed that trust by exploiting flaws in the management system to commit this fraud,” he said in court.

“I’ve become a bludgeon” used by critics to show the failings of government workers, he said. “I’ll carry that the rest of my life.”

In addition to his phony CIA work, Beale received a retention bonus of 25 percent of his salary for years after his eligibility for it expired and he collected more than $57,000 in travel expenses for five unneeded research trips to the Los Angeles area where he visited family, according to court records.

He also received a parking space at the EPA, worth $8,000 over three years, by claiming he contracted malaria while in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He neither served in Vietnam nor had the disease, though he is an honorably discharged Army veteran, according to the court filings.

Policy Adviser

Beale worked at the EPA from 1989 until April 30 and was assigned to the Office of Air and Radiation. For much of his time at the agency he was a senior policy adviser.

Beale created a fake CIA persona, writing weekly entries in his electronic calendar titled “DO oversight” that indicated days he purportedly worked at the spy agency’s directorate of operations, according to sentencing memos by his lawyer and prosecutors.

He told colleagues and managers he was working for “Langley,” the northern Virginia city where CIA headquarters is located.

As part of his deception, Beale told an EPA manager in June 2011 that his work for the spy agency would require him to be out of the office for extended periods.

He didn’t come to work at the EPA for the next 18 months while continuing to draw a paycheck and celebrating his purported retirement from the environment agency with a dinner cruise on the Potomac River in September 2011.

Like ‘Addiction’

Responding to a question by Huvelle about what motivated him, Beale said “it’s something like an addiction. You get into the habit of doing something just for the sake of doing it.”

Huvelle seemed uncertain about how to punish Beale, noting that the 37-month sentence sought by prosecutors was more than the penalties handed out to some members of Congress for similar offenses. She also said that the almost $1.4 million Beale has agreed to repay “is far more than the government gets back most of the time.”

Beale’s attorney, John Kern, asked for a prison term at the low end of the 30- to 37-month range called for in sentencing guidelines.

The handling of Beale’s case by the EPA came under scrutiny by the Obama administration and by lawmakers in both houses of Congress, in part because Beale worked in the air and radiation office with Gina McCarthy, who now is the EPA administrator.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. criticized the agency for “an absence of even basic internal controls” and said he hoped “exposing the lax agency practices that enabled Mr. Beale to construct and prosper from a web of lies also will lead to swift reforms so such abuses can never recur,” according to the statement released by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen at the time of Beale’s guilty plea on Sept. 27.

‘Massive Problem’

Beale’s case “highlights a massive problem with the EPA, and figuring out why this corruption occurred with apparently no one the wiser needs to remain a priority of our committee,” Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in an e-mailed statement following Beale’s sentencing.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, of California, the chairwoman of the committee, issued a statement calling Beale “a rogue employee” and asserting that “EPA has already put safeguards in place to prevent fraud and deception from happening in the future.”

Beale said in court he spent much of the time off during his phony CIA assignments exercising and reading, “trying to find ways to fine tune the capitalist system.”

The case is U.S. v. Beale, 13-cr-00247, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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