In October this year, Top Secret Writers reported how, in 2008, the largest food fraud in US history was foiled by customs agents. Just a month later we are reporting about another major fraud case, this time related to a high-ranking Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official who cheated American taxpayers out of thousands of dollars.
64-year-old John Beale, a former deputy assistant administrator in the Office of Air Radiation, pleaded guilty to stealing almost $900,000 from the EPA. The extensive fraud went on for 13 years when Beale would fail to show up for work while dishonestly claiming he was involved in top secret work with the CIA. In a court hearing in Washington in September 2013, the judge read evidence against Beale and then asked whether it were true.
“Yes it is, your honour,” said Beale in a flat, emotionless voice reported the Huffington Post.
Beale Faces Fines and Prison Time
Under the guilty plea, Beale now faces 30 to 37 months in prison. The fraudster will also have to pay $886,000 in damages, forfeit an additional $507,000 and pay a fine of up to $60,000. A date for the final sentencing has not yet been confirmed.
So, how exactly did an EPA official manage to dupe an agency of the US federal government, which was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment, for so many years? And, how did Beale finally get caught?
Beale had worked for the EPA since the 1980s, eventually working his way up to senior policy adviser in the Office of Air and Radiation. The fraud reportedly began in the year 2000. In long periods of absence from work, Beale claimed he was either carrying out research or engaged in highly secretive work for the CIA. During these absent periods, the EPA official continued to receive pay and benefits. Even after supposedly retiring in 2011, Beale continued to be issued pay checks.
Controversy Surrounding EPA’s Management
It was Gina McCarthy, an EPA administrator, who first began to be suspicious and investigate John Beale. McCarthy revealed Beale’s fraud earlier this year while she was still head of the Air and Radiation Office, of which Beale was the deputy administrator. McCarthy’s suspicions were roused when she noticed discrepancies on internal reports and time sheets, as stated a source talking to E & E Publishing LLC . McCarthy informed authorities of the discrepancies and pushed Beale into resigning in spring this year.
Republicans, who have long been critical of the EPA and its mission, did not need much persuading to pursue the issue.
“There appears to be corruption to the umpteenth degree,” Sen. David Vitter, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Panel, said in a press statement. “I think it’s appalling that Administrator McCarthy and former acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe could claim that sequester is depriving the agency of important resources when in fact their own employees are stealing from the government.”
In its own internal audits, the EPA has highlighted its own poor management of its workforce, dating back to 2005. The reports also noted that sequestration and budget cuts have burdened the agency and its staff. The audit highlights 2009 as being a weighty year for the EPA when offices were left understaffed despite a string of new projects coming in with the 2009 stimulus bill.
The lack of staff, increase in workload and poor management of the EPA obviously created the perfect environment for Beale to continuously dupe the agency and taxpayers out of thousands of dollars.
This is not, however, the first time the EPA’s management has fallen into controversial water. In 1983, the EPA director Anne Gorsuch resigned during a scandal about the mismanagement of a $1.6 billion program to clean up hazardous waste dumps. Gorsuch believed that the EPA was over-regulating business, that the agency was not at all cost-effective. As a consequence, the former agency head cut the EPA’s budget by 22%, cut the number of employees at the agency and took on staff from the industries they were supposed to be regulating.
Anne Gorsuch’s 22-month term as head of the Environmental Protection Agency was one of the most controversial tenures of the early Reagan administration. It seems that the EPA has not managed to shake off its reputation of poor management and controversy. By spending 13 years cashing in as a masquerading CIA operative, pocketing unearned pay and bonuses, the Beale scandal has all the hallmarks of a thrilling spy novel.
The only difference being that, as Beale admits, it’s all true and regrettably exposes the sad state of the EPA. Though it could be argued that in its outrage over such behavior – unearned pay and inflated bonuses – Congress is being a little hypocritical in its condemnation of the EPA.