A high-level Environmental Protection Agency official is under investigation for approving travel and lodging expenses for former EPA executive John Beale, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to defrauding the government of nearly $900,000 in pay, travel charges, and bonuses.
EPA investigators did not release the woman's name, only calling her a "person of interest," reports The Washington Post
, but they said she was an official with the agency’s Air and Radiation Office.
The woman marks the third deputy from the office of former Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy — who now heads the EPA — to come under investigation, following Beale and the woman who accepted his expenses. Beale's friend, Robert Brenner, also admitted he accepted a $8,000 discount on a luxury car arranged by a lobbyist.
Brenner is not facing criminal charges, and McCarthy now heads the EPA.
California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa said Wednesday the continued investigation raises "serious questions about [McCarthy's] capabilities as a manager and leader."
Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said there will be additional hearings concerning McCarthy's former office staff.
Beale admitted he falsely claimed
he was covertly working for the CIA in order to get paid days off from work at the EPA, and also to take lavish trips in connection with his "secret" duties.
The Post reported
Wednesday that the EPA knew as early as 2010 that Beale was collecting the extra pay, but did not take action, according to an inspector general.
Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter said Wednesday that the Beale case, and the new reports, show "it's very apparent there were significant failings" within the EPA, and that "a fraud of this level isn't by pure accident."
Further, he said, the continued reports are showing that the problems may reach even further.
The EPA inspector general's office credits McCarthy with questioning Beale's story and forcing him to retire. But even after he stepped down, Beale continued drawing a paycheck for 19 months, inspectors say. This was despite McCarthy attending a lavish Potomac dinner cruise to mark his retirement.
Beale's plea deal includes restitution of $1.45 million and a jail sentence of up to three years. He is due to be sentenced on Wednesday next week.
His attorney, John Kern, in court filings this week, said Beale was motivated by a need "to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior and to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives about himself that are fueled by his insecurities."
He has begun to meet with a therapist, said Kern.
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