(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, made the following statement following the arraignment and plea agreement hearing of John C. Beale, former senior official within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation, who pled guilty to government theft in the amount of $886,186 and agreed to a criminal forfeiture of $507,207, for his fraudulent conduct from 2000 to 2013.
“The case this morning 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,” said Vitter. “This is a major failing within EPA, and no direct actions have been taken to guarantee this kind of abuse won’t happen again. 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?”
Last month, Vitter requested that the EPA Office of Inspector General (EPA OIG) launch a full investigation into the Agency’s policies and processes that facilitated Mr. Beale’s fraud, and to make recommendations to ensure that this does not happen again. Click here to read Vitter’s August 27th letter to the EPA Inspector General requesting a full investigation.
This morning, Beale pled guilty to criminal charges, including stealing money in the form of salary, benefits, and certain unearned Retention Incentive Bonuses between 2000 and 2013. In an August 2013 report, the EPA OIG pointed out that deficiencies in workforce and workload management have been a long-standing problem at the agency.
Although the criminal charges Beale pled guilty to today are limited to stealing money in the form of salary, benefits, and certain unearned Retention Incentive Bonuses between 2000 and 2013, the Committee understands that evidence indicates that Beale’s fraudulent activities date back to as early as 1989. Specifically, the Committee is aware that:
• Beale falsified his application for employment with the EPA, claiming to work for the U.S. Senate, when in fact there is no record of such employment.
• Beginning in 1994, Beale falsely claimed to be a CIA operative in order to justify his extensive time out of the office. In total, the OIG estimated that the time Beale was absent for “CIA work” was equivalent to approximately $500,000 of his EPA wages.
• Beale also falsified an array of illnesses, such as malaria and an injured back, to explain absences, justify first class travel, and to obtain handicapped parking. His falsified handicapped parking spot at EPA’s headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. lasted for several years and cost taxpayers $18,000. Beale claimed to have obtained malaria while serving in Vietnam, a war he never served in.
• Beale was the highest paid employee at EPA for three years, thanks to Retention Incentive Bonuses approved by Bob Perciasepe, the head of his department at the time. Between 2007-2010, Beale’s Senior Executive Service salary and the bonuses elevated his annual income to exceed the Vice President’s salary – in violation of the statutory threshold.
• For 23 consecutive years Beale received Retention Incentive Bonuses; yet he was only approved to receive the bonuses for six years. Approval of the bonuses is also questionable as documentation justifying the bonuses were missing – suggesting that he never actually qualified for the extra pay.
• Beale’s ability to defraud the agency for over 20 years, combined with the absurdity of his claims, demonstrates serious problems with EPA’s ability to implement sound hiring practices, to track its employees time and attendance, to limit travel expenses to only those that are necessary and reasonable, and to ensure that employees are taking home only the dollars that they earn.