A Washington, D.C. federal court judge handed down her sentence this week in the case against the Environmental Protection Agency’s top earner. Despite bringing home more than $200,000 a year as a global warming expert, John C. Beale engaged in an elaborate scam over 13 years during which he falsely claimed to be a CIA operative to avoid actually working.
He spent long periods – including 18 uninterrupted months in 2011 and 2012 – away from his office while colleagues believed he was on a mission overseas or at CIA headquarters. Earlier this year, he admitted his guilt in the scheme, through which analysts say he fleeced taxpayers out of nearly $1 million.
Judge Ellen Huvelle called his actions “unbelievably egregious” before sentencing him to 32 months in federal prison and issuing a $1.3 million fine for restitution.
Beale did not try to defend his behavior, instead admitting that he merely embraced his selfish nature for more than a decade.
“Why did I do this?” he asked the court rhetorically. “Greed – simple greed – and I’m ashamed of that greed.”
He went on to describe the fraud as “an addiction,” explaining he experienced euphoria in convincing others he was a spy. Taking year-and-a-half paid vacations probably wasn’t too bad, either.
Beale really didn’t do much during his extended hiatuses. According to his testimony in court, he “spent time exercising” and “working on my house” while his fellow EPA employees believed he was engaged in international espionage.
Jim Smith, a prosecutor in the case, said Beale represents the “poster child for what is wrong with government.”
Of course, Beale’s actions were just a microcosm of the overarching waste associated with our government. While his brazen lies have been exposed, billions in taxpayer dollars are similarly squandered each year on frivolous programs and executive vacations.
Though his fraud was serious and his punishment well-deserved, many see Beale’s actions as just an exaggeration of ordinary public-sector behavior. Our government is notoriously unaccountable, which might explain why he was able to keep the wool over his superiors’ eyes for 13 years.
–B. Christopher Agee