EPA's fake spy sent to prison for 32 months

A disgraced former Obama administration official was sent to federal prison Wednesday for stealing money from taxpayers while impersonating a CIA official at his government job.

A federal judge in Washington handed John Beale a 32-month prison sentence for the more than a decade he spent pretending to work at the spy agency to stay home from work, receive benefits and collect a generous income from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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The sentencing brings to a close one of the more bizarre episodes for the EPA, which lawmakers hope will be able to prevent future fraud.  

“The sentence handed down by the judge today is appropriate given Mr. Beale’s outrageous activities,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “EPA has already put safeguards in place to prevent fraud and deception from happening in the future.”

In September, Beale pled guilty to stealing nearly $900,000 in the form of government pay and benefits since 2000. In addition to paying that back, he also agreed to forfeit slightly more than $500,000.

According to the EPA’s inspector general, Beale started work at the EPA in 1989 and began impersonating a CIA officer in 1994. He lied to his friends, family and coworkers about the position, which was fake.  

In order to get off of work he pretended to travel to Pakistan on behalf of the spy agency, though he actually spent time lounging at his Virginia home or a vacation house on Cape Cod. He sometimes was absent from the EPA for months at a time.

Beale also lied about illnesses, his past and other aspects of his life to receive first-class flights, free trips to visit family, handicapped parking at the EPA’s headquarters and other perks.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was the first one to raise the alarm on Beale’s activity in 2010, while she served as Beale’s boss. She referred the possible fraud to other officials in the agency but did not immediately fire him or cut off his payment, which some Republicans have seen a failure to hold him accountable.  

Beale continued to be paid a reported $206,000 in salary and bonuses by the EPA until this year, making him the highest paid official at the agency.

“The case this morning 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,” Sen. David Vitter (La.), the top Republican on the environment committee, said in a statement. “At minimum, $900,000 of the taxpayers’ money was stolen right under Administrator Gina McCarthy’s nose. We need to know just how vulnerable is this Agency.”

In October, Beale refused to testify before the House Oversight committee by invoking protections under the Fifth Amendment. During that hearing, lawmakers hoped that he would return to testify about his fraud after sentencing, to determine how it went undetected for so long.