A former worker at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who pleaded guilty last week to stealing almost $900,000 by pretending he was a CIA officer, took the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying at a House Oversight Committee hearing Tuesday.
John Beale acknowledges he stole salary, bonuses, and other payments from the EPA while engaged in his ruse, The Hill reports
Beale claimed he was secretly working for the CIA to gain days off from work at the EPA and take lavish trips. But apparently his colleagues at the EPA knew what was going on.
"His undercover, super-secret status was known by a great deal of people," House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said, according to The Hill.
"It was an open secret."
Even after he reached retirement age, Beale was able to maintain his EPA job by claiming that his CIA replacement had recently been murdered. He said he had to remain at the CIA until a replacement was found and that the EPA had to keep him on board.
"To my understanding, your first replacement was killed by the Taliban," Issa said, according to The Hill. "And we’re very sorry for the loss of that non-existent secret agent to replace a non-existent secret agent."
Gina McCarthy, now head of the EPA and formerly Beale's boss, was the first to realize Beale’s wrongdoing, The Hill reports. But she didn't immediately take strong action against him, drawing criticism from some Oversight Committee members.
"It’s another example of the Obama administration, failing to actively fire someone," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said, according to The Hill. "If this person couldn’t be fired, and she didn’t do it, I think we have no choice but to hear from Administrator McCarthy. She was involved in this."
Beale entered a plea deal
that calls for him to cough up $1.45 million, and he faces a jail sentence of up to 37 months.
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