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Hearing Urged after $900K EPA Theft

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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A Republican Senator is demanding hearings into management practices at the Environmental Protection Agency after a former official admitted making bizarre claims that reaped him nearly $900,000 in cash and perks.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, asked committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on Monday (Sept. 30) to hold a full committee hearing on the fraudulent activity of John C. Beale, a former top aide to new EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.

David Vitter Gina McCarthy
Official photos

A top deputy to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (right) did not show up for a single day of work for more than a year before McCarthy reported it to authorities, says Sen. David Vitter (R-OK). He wants to know why.

Beale, 64, of New York, NY, pleaded guilty Friday (Sept. 27) in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to illegally raking in $886,186 in salary, benefits and bonuses from January 2000 to April 2013, the Justice Department announced.

'Lies of Outlandish Proportions'

Beale was absent from his EPA duties for about two and a half years of his 13-year tenure but claimed that he was working on a project for the CIA and other initiatives, authorities said.

Beale had no such responsibilities and was not working for the CIA or the EPA on the many days he was out but drawing full salary and benefits, prosecutors said.

"John Beale stole from the government for more than a decade by telling lies of outlandish proportions,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C.  Machen Jr. said in a statement Friday.

Malaria Claims

“He dodged his work at the EPA for extended periods by claiming that he was away working on operations for the CIA.  He even got a parking space for three years by falsely claiming that he had malaria."

Beale, a senior policy advisor, had served in the Office of Air and Radiation as McCarthy's top deputy. McCarthy became EPA Administrator in July.

Beale was one of the highest-paid non-elected federal government employees when he was promoted in August 2000, the Justice Department said.

His fraud took several forms, prosecutors said.

Unauthorized Absences

Beale took off "about 102 days" between 2000 and 2008, claiming he was working for the CIA, authorities said.

In addition, between 2005 and 2007, he sought and received reimbursement for $57,235 in travel expenses for five trips he made to Los Angeles, CA. Beale claimed to be working on a special EPA research project but "never produced any written work" and never completed the project, prosecutors said.

Sen. Barbara Boxe4
Official photo

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee. Ranking GOP member David Vitter wants committee hearings on EPA management.

Beginning in June 2008, Beale failed to report to the EPA offices for about six months, saying either that he was working on the "research project" or was working for "Langley." (CIA headquarters is in Langley, VA.)

He also skipped nine days of work between January 2010 and May 2011, saying he was working with the CIA.

Retirement, Return and Retention

In May 2011, Beale announced that he was retiring from the EPA. He and two other longtime EPA employees even celebrated their retirements with a dinner cruise that September.

In November 2012, however, an EPA manager who thought Beale was retired found that he was still receiving a paycheck.

In 2000, prosecutors said, Beale received a 25 percent retention bonus that was supposed to run through 2003. Beale was still receiving the bonus in 2013, authorities said.

In January 2002, Beale claimed that he needed a parking space for work because he had contracted malaria while serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. (Beale never served in Vietnam or in the Army, according to Vitter.) The space cost EPA $200 a month. Beale kept the space until June 2005, costing the agency about $8,000, prosecutors said.

Lack of 'Basic Internal Controls'

Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., Inspector General for the EPA, said that Beale's "multiple frauds over a long period of time" reflected "an absence of even basic internal controls at the EPA."

CIA seal
Wikimedia / CIA

EPA senior policy advisor John C. Beale said he worked as a CIA operative and contracted malaria while serving in the Army—none of which is true, prosecutors say.

"The details of this remarkable story are unfathomable—and yet they happened," Elkins said in a statement.

Vitter agreed, saying the Beale case "highlights a massive problem with the EPA, and figuring out why this corruption occurred with apparently no one the wiser needs to be a priority of our committee."

“This is a major failing within EPA, and no direct actions have been taken to guarantee this kind of abuse won’t happen again," Vitter said in a statement Friday. "At minimum, $900,000 of the taxpayers’ money was stolen right under Administrator Gina McCarthy’s nose, so I want to know how vulnerable is this agency?”

Vitter first called for a broader investigation of the Beale case in August, when Beale was initially charged. On Sept. 5, Elkins told Vitter in a letter that the EPA's Office of Inspector General office had opened an investigation into "various agency policies and procedures related to the fraudulent activities" alleged.

Hearing Demanded

On Monday, Vitter wrote to Boxer that the scope of Beale's fraud "is much greater than reflected in his plea agreement and demonstrates clear breakdowns in EPA's operations."

Vitter noted that Beale "did not show up for a single day of work at EPA" between June 2011 and December 2012, yet McCarthy did not report any suspicions to the Office of General Counsel until November 2012

He called on Boxer to convene a "comprehensive hearing" to "take a close look at what is broken within the Agency's management practices, so EPA can start making the appropriate corrections." Specifically, he asked that the committee call McCarthy and Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe to testify about their oversight of Beale.

Other Fraud?

Vitter alleges that Beale has been involved in other fraud. In addition to his false claims of Army service and malaria, Vitter said, Beale:

  • Got his EPA job partly by falsely claiming that he formerly worked for the U.S. Senate, when he never had;
  • Falsely claimed since 1994 to have been a CIA operative;
  • Falsely claimed an injured back in order to travel first class and get a handicapped parking space;
  • Earned more than the Vice President of the United States from 2009 to 2012, in violation of a statutory threshold; and
  • Earned bouses for 23 years that he was supposed to draw for six.

Boxer's office issued no immediate reply.

Beale faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and other penalties when he is sentenced. Prosecutors said they expect a sentence of 30 to 37 months and a fine of $60,000.

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 10:26 a.m. ET Oct. 2, to correct Sen. Vitter's home state.

   

Tagged categories: Air quality; Enforcement; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government; Laws and litigation

Comment from Jim Johnson, (10/1/2013, 6:08 PM)

That piddly fine better be in addition to full restoration of all funds obtained illegally! Anything less would mean crime does pay!! If the EPA cannot keep track of employees better than that then the staff should be cut by at least 20% as that many are probably not doing anything anyway.


Comment from Wes Carter, (10/2/2013, 9:50 AM)

One small correction. Senator Vitter is from LA...not OK...even though he is doing an OK job for his constituency in the great state of Louisiana.


Comment from Mary Chollet, (10/2/2013, 10:27 AM)

Good catch, Wes. Corrected. Thank you.


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