Lawmakers from both parties are putting political spin on a plea agreement reached by John Beale, a former Environmental Protection Agency senior staffer, who admitted Friday he took almost $900,000 in government funds over a decade while claiming he was doing special projects for the CIA.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he has a hearing planned for Tuesday to gather information about how the EPA inspector general's office conducted the investigation, Politico reports
Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana called Beale's activities "a major failing within the EPA." But California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said Beale is an "admitted con man" whose thefts dated "back to the George W. Bush administration," praising the current EPA leadership for prosecuting him.
Beale, who oversaw the agency's Office of Air and Radiation, entered his plea agreement on Friday, admitting he took bonuses, unearned pay, and other benefits from the EPA over a 12-year period. The deal calls for Beale to repay the money and spend about three years in federal prison.
EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy noticed the discrepancies, and asked for an investigation. She started her job in 2009, reports The Washington Post
, and started suspecting Beale in March 2012. She was appointed EPA administrator this year.
Vitter said McCarthy is to blame because she headed the office while Beale was still there.
"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, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said. "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?"
But Inspector General Patrick Sullivan told The Post that nobody at EPA questioned Beale's claims of working for the CIA before McCarthy became suspicious.
Beale, 64, would disappear
for long periods of time, telling superiors and colleagues that he was involved in top-secret work, including for the CIA.
The former EPA staffer had faced charges of felony theft of government property, which could have resulted in up to 10 years in federal prison, a quarter-million-dollar fine, three years of probation, and an order to pay back what he took, with interest.
The restitution of $886,186 will go to the EPA, with the first $507,207 to be paid within the next three months, the plea agreement says.
Beale had worked for the EPA from 1989 until this year, reports The Washington Post
, and once he reached a senior level in 2000, he got a 25 percent retention bonus that was only supposed to be paid for three years, ending in 2003. However, the bonus kept coming for 10 more years before he retired this year.
Further, he used a handicapped parking spot, lying about contracting malaria during the Vietnam War when he never served in Vietnam — a tale that cost the government an estimated $8,000 over the years.
Beale's fraud also included five trips to Los Angeles in two years after telling a manager in 2005 that he was working on a long-term research project. Instead, he used the trips to visit family, and collected $57,000 for his travels.
Beale also quit coming to work from June to December in 2008, saying he was working at Langley for the CIA. His scheme also involved taking extended leave, saying he was traveling internationally, but instead he stayed in Washington or Massachusetts while not working.
Further, Beale lied about his retirement — even enjoying a party with his staff — but he continued to draw paychecks for several months.
He was given permission to stay at his apartment on Manhattan's Upper West until his sentencing.
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