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John C. Beale, a former senior advisor for the US Environmental Protection Agency, was sentenced to 32 months in prison Wednesday for defrauding the agency out of nearly $900,000 in unearned pay and bonuses. The 65-year-old had managed to convince his bosses, friends, and even wife that he worked for the CIA on the side. Over the course of 10 years, Beale missed more than 2 1/2 years of work, claiming he was unavailable on secret missions for the intelligence agency, when he was actually traveling on the government’s dime and enjoying his paid time off in luxury hotels.
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During his frequent and lengthy vacations, Beale continued to be paid a full salary, plus bonuses he was not entitled to that added 25% to his paycheck. He also confessed to charging non-work travel expenses on first-class flights and lavish hotels to the agency.
The lies didn’t end there: Beale even claimed to be handicapped due to a bout of malaria he’d contracted during time in Vietnam which he did not actually serve, using an $8,000 handicapped parking space for free for three years. In 2011, he stopped showing up for work entirely but continued to draw a paycheck for a full 18 months. His lies were uncovered as part of an investigation into the continued payments following his “retirement.”
For the judge and prosecutors in the case, Beale’s actions symbolize all that is wrong with the government workforce. At the sentencing, US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle called Beale’s actions “a stain on the entire federal workforce,” and EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. called out the agency for “an absence of even basic internal controls.”
It’s incredibly troubling to think that this sort of blatant corruption could be affecting the agency tasked with protecting the American people from pollution and climate change. How much more would the EPA be able to do if this kind of money weren’t being wasted by its employees? The agency claims it has set up safeguards to keep this sort of fraud from happening again, but for now, Congress had better be keeping a closer eye on the EPA’s payroll to make sure no other cases like Beale’s have managed to slip through the cracks.