Secret Agent Man


It isn’t often that a news story needs to be prefaced by the words “I swear to god this is all true, I am making none of it up,” but this is one of those rare stories. It sounds more like an urban legend than anything else, a man got out of work for ten years by convincing his boss he was an undercover CIA agent. It’s the kind of thing you tell to your friends when you want to convince them to skip a day of work and go see a movie or go to Six Flags.

This is what John C. Beale did though. Over his 13-year tenure at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as a leading climate change expert, Beale convinced his bosses that he was really an undercover CIA agent and thus could not come into work. He also convinced him that they needed to pay him his yearly salary anyway to help keep his cover, over his 13 years he was paid about $1 million. Beale was the highest paid employee at the EPA.

During his tenure at the EPA, Beale didn’t go to work for months at a time. These included a six month stretch in 2008 and an 18 month stretch starting in June 2011. He told his bosses that he was either at Langley or working on candidate security in Pakistan ahead of presidential elections.

He also had to run off randomly at one point in order to rescue a CIA colleague who had been captured and was being tortured in Pakistan.

“Due to recent events that you have probably read about, I am in Pakistan,” he wrote McCarthy in a Dec. 18, 2010 email obtained by NBCNews. “Got the call Thurs and left Fri. Hope to be back for Christmas ….Ho, ho, ho.”

Beale was also paid retention bonuses so that he would not leave the job he never went to and was flown first-class at the EPA’s expense due to his bad back. Beale also, somehow, managed to convince his bosses to continue paying him after he retired because his CIA work was still ongoing.

While not at work Beale would reportedly read books, ride his bicycle and work on his house.

“I spent time exercising. I spent a lot of time working on my house,”  said Beale at a hearing.

Basically, while skipping out of work, Beale did things normal people do when they have nothing else to do with their time.

Using his fake CIA job to get out of work was far from the most ludicrous thing Beale did though. Beale was able to convince his superiors to grant him a handicap parking space, for a job he never even went to, due to his having contracted malaria while serving in Vietnam. Beale, of course, never served in Vietnam. So he got a handicap parking spot for a job he never went to because of a disease he had never contracted by serving in a war he never served in.

Eventually Beale’s story fell apart, after a decade or so, and he was discovered and prosecuted for his crimes, which included fraud and theft. Beale pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him in court.

When U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola read the evidence against Beale and asked him if it were true, Beale replied, simply, “Yes it is, your honor.”

By agreeing to plead guilty, Beale has received a plea deal. Under the conditions of the deal, Beale is forced to pay back nearly $1.3 million. The deal also calls for Beale to serve 32 months in prison.

If you think that is the end of this story, then you are in for a bit of a shock. After having lied to his bosses, stolen money from the government and impersonated a CIA agent, Beale had one last thing he needed. During the investigation and trial, Beale had no place to stay. As a result he went to one of his former bosses at the EPA, Robert Brenner, the man who scouted him for the job, and asked for a place to stay. Brenner, after talking it over with his wife, agreed.

Upon learning of this during a Congressional hearing, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said, “This is just an unbelievable story, I give up.”

John Zurz

John Zurz

John Zurz

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