It is a story that flummoxed investigators – how a highly paid climate-change expert at the Environmental Protection Agency managed to defraud the government of nearly $1m, by pretending for a decade to be an undercover CIA agent.
John Beale, 65, is to undergo sentencing in a DC federal court on Wednesday, after pleading guilty to defrauding the government of $900,000 in salary and other benefits. Beale, who used his ruse to disappear for months at a time, has agreed to pay some $1.3m in restitution. He faces up to three years in jail.
The scandal could rebound against the current administrator of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, and her efforts to carry out President Barack Obama's climate-change agenda. Last week, an official investigation found that she knew of the fraud for more than a year. Other officials who worked with Beale at the agency are under investigation and in a report last week, the EPA inspector general said senior agency officials had “enabled” Beale by failing to challenge any of his stories or expense claims amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Beale, who retired last April after learning he was under investigation, earned salary and bonuses of $206,000 a year, far more than his supervisors. His fraud consisted largely of failing to turn up for work – in one instance for 18 months – and offering excuses connected to his fake intelligence role at the CIA.
He faked malaria, and a rescue mission on behalf of a CIA colleague who was being tortured by the Taliban. He billed the government $57,000 for five trips to California – which he used to see his parents – and for lavish trips to London. But the CIA has no record of Beale ever walking in the door, let alone earning a security clearance, and the climate expert was actually using his absences to go for long rides on his mountain bike or catch up on reading.