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EPA fraudster sentenced for 'outrageous' CIA scam

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FILE: Oct. 1, 2013: Former EPA official John Beale at a hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

A high-ranking EPA official who bilked taxpayers out of nearly $1 million by pretending to be a CIA agent was sentenced Wednesday to 32 months in prison. 

Judge Ellen Huvelle sentenced John Beale, a former EPA senior policy adviser, to the prison term as well as two years supervised release. Beale already has paid $886,000 in restitution, and now owes more than a half-million dollars in forfeiture -- he's expected to pay the Justice Department within the next month. 

During the sentencing hearing, Beale appeared to show some remorse. He said he had "no excuse," and said there was no reason for his actions other than "simple greed." 

"I own this. This is on me," Beale told the judge. "Shame has become my constant companion." 

Huvelle agreed and admonished Beale, calling his actions "a stain on the federal workforce." The judge turned down the government's request for an additional fine. 

Asked afterward if he thought the sentence was fair, Beale told Fox News: "No comment. ... Nice try though." 

The case stood out as one of the more bizarre schemes run against the government in recent memory. Beale allegedly billed the government for first-class plane tickets and, for years, got paid for a spy job he never had. 

Beale's trickery began more than a decade ago and was largely a scheme to collect unearned pay over roughly 13 years -- essentially by saying he needed to take off one workday a week for CIA missions. 

In 2000, Beale started indicating on his EPA electronic calendar that he was working at the CIA's Directorate of Operations. He told an EPA manager that he had been assigned to an interagency, special advisory group and continued to take the extra day off until 2008, at which point he took off for about six months, telling managers and employees he was working on the research project or working for "Langley," where the CIA is based. 

Beale was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The maximum statutory prison term for such a crime is 10 years, according to court documents. But prosecutors agreed to a mid-range sentence. 

"Make no mistake: This defendant has engaged in crime of massive proportions," U.S. Attorneys Ronald Machen and James Smith wrote in the court filing. "The nature of his deception was outrageous and notorious. ... Although the defendant has no prior criminal history, his first criminal conviction was a blockbuster." 

Beale also bilked the government with a longstanding agreement with the EPA that he fly first-class due to a dubious back injury. One flight to London cost taxpayers $14,000, when a coach ticket would have cost just $1,000, according to court documents. 

He was able to get away with the fraud for so long because of "an absence of even basic internal controls at the EPA," said Inspector General Arthur Elkins, whose office unraveled Beale's long-running deception. Beale retired just before the probe began. 

Beale came under suspicion when EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressed concerns about his expenses. 

Assistant Inspector General Patrick Sullivan, who led the internal review, said he interviewed about 40 people, only one of whom ever suspected Beale's life as a secret agent was a fraud. Investigators also compared Beale's cellphone records to his travel expenses and determined that when he claimed to be in Pakistan and other locations on CIA business, he was really at his Cape Cod vacation home. 

Fox News' Jake Gibson contributed to this report.