Published: 16:40 EST, 18 December 2013 | Updated: 17:19 EST, 18 December 2013
The Environmental Protection Agency's top climate change expert and highest paid employee was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison today for defrauding the government.
John C. Beale, who lives with his wife in Virginia, claimed he was a CIA agent working in Pakistan so he didn't have to show up for work for months at a time and defrauded the government out of more than $900,000. He said he did it out of 'greed' and got a 'rush of excitement' from it.
The 65-year-old's 13 year scam was 'inexplicable' and 'unbelievably egregious', Judge Ellen Huvelle said in Washington D.C. federal court today.
Fraud: John C. Beale (pictured on December 16 in court) admitted to defrauding the government out of $900,000 by not showing up to work
Beale has also agreed to pay $1.3 million in restitution and forfeiture to the government, NBC News reported.
The climate change expert, who reported directly to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, said he was ashamed of his CIA scam, which he ran from 2000 until earlier this year, according to court documents.
Beale told the court today: 'Why did I do this? Greed - simple greed - and I'm ashamed of that greed.'
He also admitted that he got a 'sense of excitement' by telling coworkers that he was a CIA agent - saying 'it was something like an addiction.'
The fraudster plead guilty in September for the scam that saw him take almost $1 million in salary and benefits from the government over a decade.
No one at the agency questioned or looked into his claims that he was working undercover for the CIA, it was reported.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was Beale's boss during most of the 13 years he allegedly committed fraud
He would leave the office for weeks or months - claiming he was at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, or in Pakistan working on covert missions. Beale has never even been to Langley.
Really, he was home reading, riding his bicycle or doing housework. Sometimes he escaped to his vacation home on Cape Cod, prosecutors said.
He billed taxpayers for 33 plane flights between 2003 and 2011, including personal trips to London and California, which he flew first class. He stayed in five-star hotels and billed the government for expensive meals and limo rides. The total cost: more than $266,000.
He also publicly 'retired,' but managed to continue drawing his $206,000 salary for 18 months - despite brazenly throwing a retirement party for himself that was attended by McCarthy.
He even lied and said he had contracted malaria while serving in the Vietnam War in order to get a handicapped parking spot. He neither had malaria nor served in Vietnam, according to prosecutors.
EPA Assistant Inspector General Patrick Sullivan told NBC that Beale perpetrated a 'crime of massive proportions.'
He has been labeled a 'poster child for what is wrong with the government.'
His sentence got a quick reaction from Capitol Hill and a top republican has demanded further investigation into the EPA to find out how Beale got away with his scam for so long.
'This case this morning highlights a massive problem with the EPA', Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana told NBC.
Beale's direct boss, Gina McCarthy, was criticized for not noticing the scam going on right under her nose, but Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who is chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, defended McCarthy.
'I commend the EPA administrator (McCarthy) for taking steps to shine a light on the actions of this rogue employee, and her actions helped uncover these crimes', she said.
Sullivan, who investigated Beale, said he believes the culture of the EPA made it ripe for this sort of fraud.
Beale seen in court on December 16 as the trial for his fraud case was ongoing
'There’s a certain culture here at the EPA where the mission is the most important thing,' he told NBC.
'They don’t think like criminal investigators. They tend to be very trusting and accepting.'
Beale's lawyer had asked for leniency after a psychological review showed he had a 'highly self-destructive and dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior.'
Beale is a Princeton-educated 'senior policy adviser' who worked as one of the EPA's top climate change experts.
He helped rewrite the Clean Air Act in 1990, led EPA delegations at climate change conferences in 2000 and 2001, and helped negotiate carbon emissions agreements with India and China.
Sometime along his career, his work stopped being enough.
He was caught only after McCarthy, who was appointed EPA administrator in July, discovered that he was still on the payroll in March 2012 - nearly six months after his retirement party.
She called for an investigation, which led to the criminal charges. Beale didn't actually retire until this April.
Beale is married to Nancy Kete, who President Barack Obama appointed the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. She is currently managing director of the Rockafeller Foundation.
The couple own a $872,000 townhouse in Arlington, Virginia, and a $626,000 vacation home on Cape Cod.