How John Beale Swindled the EPA Out of $1 Million
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The Fiscal Times
December 17, 2013

A top executive from the Environmental Protection Agency is likely heading to prison after defrauding the federal government out of nearly $1 million.  He concocted the truly bizarre and elaborate scheme to avoid doing his job while still raking in a generous salary.

The EPA’s highest paid former employee, John Beale, will be sentenced in a federal court on Wednesday after spending more than ten years taking months off work to do “intelligence work for the CIA in Pakistan,” when he was actually kicking back, reading, riding his bike and relaxing at his vacation home in Cape Cod, NBC News first reported.

Beale, who served as a senior policy adviser in the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, pled guilty in September to defrauding the federal government out of nearly $900,000 since 2000. Beale retired from his post in April after learning that he was the subject of a federal investigating for defrauding the government by ditching work for months at a time, while still collecting his $200,000 salary (more than EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, his immediate boss.)

In one instance, Beale disappeared from work for 18-months during which he did “absolutely no work,” his lawyer, John Kern admitted, according to court files obtained by NBC News.

Beale’s go-to excuse was that he was a CIA operative that required extensive travel to Pakistan and the spy agency’s headquarters in Langley.

Another time, EPA Assistant Inspector General Patrick Sullivan said Beale emailed McCarthy to tell her he urgently needed to leave for Pakistan because the Taliban was torturing another CIA operative.

“Due to recent events that you have probably read about, I am in Pakistan,” he wrote. “Got the call Thurs and left Fri. Hope to be back for Christmas ….Ho, ho, ho.”

However, after a bit of investigating, Sullivan concluded that Beale didn’t have so much as a security clearance. He hadn’t ever been to Langley. And probably hadn’t thought about how a CIA operative would likely not be so open about dispensing information on a top-secret mission in an email.

“I’ve worked for the government for 35 years. I’ve never seen a situation like this,” Sullivan told NBC. He said when the EPA finally confronted Beale about his lies earlier this year, he brushed it off and conveniently said he “couldn’t discuss it.”

Regardless, McCarthy and other agency officials seemed to buy what Beale was selling.

In a sentencing memo obtained by NBC News, federal prosecutors called Beale’s schemes “a crime of massive proportion that was offensive to those who actually do dangerous work for the CIA.” They want him to serve a prison sentence of at least 30 months.

But Beale’s CIA-cover wasn’t his only creative excuse. According to NBC, he didn’t show up for work at the EPA for six consecutive months in 2008 because he told his boss he was part of a multi-agency election-year project regarding “candidate security.” During that stint, he billed the government $57,000 for five trips to California that were “for personal reasons.”

He also told EPA officials that he needed to have a special handicap parking spot at EPA’s headquarters because he suffered from malaria, which he contracted while serving in Vietnam. No, he never served in Vietnam.

Ahead of the Wednesday sentencing, Beale’s lawyer asked that the court cut his client some slack.

“With the help of his therapist, Mr. Beale has come to recognize that, beyond the motive of greed, his theft and deception were animated by a highly self-destructive and dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior.” Kern wrote. He added that his client was driven “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives … that are fueled by his insecurities.”

(No kidding.)

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.