ICYMI: Washington Post "Former Senior EPA Adviser Expected to Plead Guilty in $900,000 Pay Fraud"
September 5, 2013
Last week, U.S. Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) called for an investigation of $900,000 stolen by an employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Air, aiming to understand the extent of the Agency's massive fraud and abuse. Click here to read more.
Former senior EPA adviser Beale expected to plead guilty in $900,000 pay fraud
By Ann E. Marimow and Lenny Bernstein | September 4, 2013
Over the past 12 years, John C. Beale was often away from his job as a high-level staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency. He cultivated an air of mystery and explained his lengthy absences by telling his bosses that he was doing top-secret work, including for the CIA.
For years, apparently, no one checked.
Now, Beale is charged with stealing nearly $900,000 from the EPA by receiving pay and bonuses he did not deserve. He faces up to three years in prison.
Beale, 64, who was a senior policy adviser in the Office of Air and Radiation, is expected to plead guilty at a hearing scheduled for Monday at U.S. District Court in Washington.
"This is a situation where one individual went to great lengths to deceive and defraud the U.S. government," said EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson.
Beale's attorney, John W. Kern, declined to comment on the case, as did a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.
At agency headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, Beale fostered an enigmatic image. He frequently traveled to China, South Africa and England, according to several people who worked with him. He would describe his trips and mention a lingering case of malaria.
The Arlington County resident told colleagues that his stints away from the office were for "sensitive work for another agency," according to an official familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is pending.
"I even asked him about it, as a joke," said a person who knows Beale through work on environmental issues and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the pending charges. "We all actually believed that maybe there was something going on. He just kind of laughed it off."
In recent weeks, people who work on environmental issues inside and outside the agency have learned of Beale's alleged deceit and the matter has taken on some political weight.
Sen. David Vitter (La.), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, called the alleged scheme a "massive fraud" and has demanded additional investigation by the inspector general to determine whether the alleged corruption extends further in the agency that protects the nation's air, water and land.
Vitter said Beale had worked for Gina McCarthy, who now leads the EPA, for at least part of the time that he allegedly stole agency funds. The Louisiana Republican had threatened to filibuster McCarthy's nomination to lead the agency over an unrelated matter.
McCarthy's defenders said privately that she discovered the alleged activity and brought it to the attention of the authorities. She later forced Beale to retire in April 2013, according to a person familiar with the investigation. When he left, his base salary was $164,700.
Throughout the alleged scheme, which federal prosecutors said began in 2000, Beale appears to have acted alone, according to people close to the case.
The charges against Beale came in a three-page "criminal information," which can only be filed with a defendant's cooperation and signals that a plea agreement has been reached.
More details about how Beale carried out the alleged long-running scheme and exactly how much time he took off while still being paid are expected to emerge at his hearing before Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola.
Starting in about 2000, and continuing through Republican and Democratic administrations, court papers indicate that Beale was paid for work he never performed for the agency.
He received a salary, benefits and "retention incentive" bonuses "for which Beale had not earned by providing employment services to the EPA," Assistant U.S. Attorney James E. Smith said in the court papers filed on Aug. 23.
The U.S. attorney's office is seeking to recover $507,207 in a judgement against Beale. A separate restitution order for additional funds could be filed separately.