WASHINGTON, DC, December 19, 2013 (ENS) – John C. Beale, a former employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was sentenced to 32 months in prison on Wednesday after he admitted perpetrating multiple frauds under the guise of performing undercover work as a CIA agent.
“Today’s sentencing closes the sordid chapter of John Beale’s numerous and egregious fraudulent actions perpetrated against the federal government over a very long period of time,” said EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins.
Beale, 65, of New York City, was employed by the EPA from 1989 until April 30, 2013. He was assigned to the Office of Air and Radiation, a division responsible for the development of national programs, policies and regulations designed to control air pollution and radiation exposure.
For much of his time at the EPA, Beale was a senior policy advisor with duties that included planning, policy implementation, direction, and control of EPA programs. He also attended and participated in several international conferences on air quality issues, many in foreign countries.
In August 2000, Beale was promoted to a senior-level employee, making him among the highest-paid non-elected federal government employees with an annual salary of $206, 000, including bonuses. Beale reached the level of Deputy Assistant Administrator in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, which was headed by Gina McCarthy, who now serves as EPA Administrator.
The EPA inspector general’s office has concluded that top officials at the agency “enabled” Beale by failing to verify his statements and failing to examine the hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges for which the agency reimbursed Beale.
“While that chapter has ended, we have started a new one in which the Office of Inspector General is actively looking at the EPA’s sloppy internal controls and management actions that enabled Mr. Beale’s frauds to occur,” Elkins said. “Last week, we issued two reports related to Mr. Beale’s audacious pay and travel frauds.”
The first reports from those audits – those examining internal controls and management actions concerning Beale’s pay and travel – were released on December 11 and are available at http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports.html.
“Expect to see the results of more audits from us in the coming months,” Elkins said.
An investigation conducted by Elkins’ office revealed misleading and false statements dating back to Beale’s hiring by the agency in 1988, followed by payment of retention incentive bonuses amounting to 25 percent of his salary authorized for a maximum of six years that continued for 22 years.
In 1994, Beale began falsely claiming to be a CIA agent, a lie that became the core of his scheme to justify frequent absences from the office between 2000 and 2013.
Additionally, he cited malaria contracted during Army service in Vietnam – although he neither had malaria nor served in Vietnam – as the basis for obtaining subsidized parking for employees requiring special access for medical conditions.
Beale also committed travel fraud involving vouchers, lodging, first-class air accommodations and misuse of a government passport.
The frauds were discovered after Beale was honored at a retirement party in September 2011 but remained on the EPA’s payroll until April 2013, when he officially retired. The EPA’s Office of General Counsel referred the case to the Office of Inspector General in February 2013.
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. prosecuted a criminal charge of theft of government property in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Under the plea agreement, Beale paid a total of $886,186 in restitution to EPA and a forfeiture money judgment of another $507,207 to the Department of Justice.
“John Beale spent a decade telling one fantastic lie after another to steal our tax dollars,” said Machen. “At some point, his commitment to public service warped into a sense of entitlement fueled by greed. Through this prison sentence John Beale will pay the price for his years of deception.”
According to the statement of offense, starting in approximately 2000 until June 2008, Beale took about 102 days off saying he was working with the CIA. From 2005 to 2007, Beale claimed to be working on a research project for the EPA. The statement of offense details payments of $57,235 in travel expenses for five trips to the Los Angeles area. Beale did not need to travel to California, where he visited family members, and could have done the research work at home or at his EPA office. In fact, he never produced any written work regarding the research project, which was never completed.
Starting in June 2008, Beale failed to report to the EPA offices for about six months, either claiming to be working on the research project or spending time working for “Langley.” He never submitted a leave request for this time and continued to receive his EPA salary.
Between January 2010 to May 2011, Beale failed to report to work at the EPA for approximately nine days, claiming he was working with the CIA. He never submitted a leave request for these days, but was paid his salary from the EPA.
In May 2011, Beale announced that he was retiring from the EPA. In September 2011, he and two other long-term EPA employees celebrated a retirement party on a dinner cruise on the Potomac River. Following the party, an EPA manager believed that Beale had actually retired, and the manager did not see him at the EPA offices afterward.
However, in November 2012, the manager discovered that Beale was still receiving a paycheck.
In or around June 2000, Beale was awarded a 25 percent retention incentive bonus for three years. The purpose of the bonus was to ensure that Beale remained with the EPA, rather than leave the federal government and seek employment elsewhere. It was supposed to expire after 2003, but Beale continued to receive it through 2013.
Beale entered a guilty plea on September 27, 2013.
Elkins’ Office of Inspector General then launched audits probing a number of potential EPA systematic weaknesses that emerged during the Beale investigation: retention bonuses, the statutory annual pay limit, first-class travel, the agency’s process for approval of foreign travel, the agency’s vetting process for new employees, and time-and-attendance issues.
The Office of Inspector General is an independent office within the EPA that performs audits, program evaluations and investigations of the EPA and its contractors, and prevents and detects fraud, waste, and abuse.
After Beale was sentenced on Wednesday, Elkins encouraged federal employees at all levels to take Beale’s “extraordinary case” as encouragement to come to the Inspector General’s Office with any allegations of fraud, waste and abuse. He said, “Let this case also serve as a cautionary tale to those individuals who would take advantage of the system.”