London Calling

Fraudster EPA official spent $40K on luxurious London trips

• November 8, 2013 10:59 am


The former Environmental Protection Agency official who pretended to be a CIA spy and bilked the agency out of hundreds of thousands of dollars spent more than $40,000 on two taxpayer-funded trips to London that included first-class airfare and five-star hotels, documents obtained by the Free Beacon reveal.

Travel expense reports reviewed by the Free Beacon show former EPA official John Beale took two taxpayer-funded trips to London in 2008 and 2009, staying in a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. and a hotel along the River Thames in London.

Beale, 64, pled guilty in September to charges of felony theft of government property, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Investigators say Beale claimed for years to be a CIA spy and that he often justified his long absences from work by saying he was overseas.

Beale is scheduled to be sentenced in December. Because of his clean record and guilty plea, his probable prison sentence will be 30 to 37 months. The court also ordered him to pay restitution of $886,186 to the EPA and civil forfeitures of $507,207.

The EPA Office of the Inspector General told the Free Beacon it is currently conducting an audit of the agency’s internal practices following the case, and it expects to release the report in mid-December.

Beale took his first taxpayer-funded trip to London in 2008, spending $22,356.12.

He flew first-class, having obtained a chiropractor’s note saying he had lower back problems. His first-class ticket cost 14 times the amount of a regular coach ticket.

The next year, Beale returned to London. According to his travel voucher, the purpose of the trip was: "Long term scenario planning for Energy Security Conference, London meeting with Shell foundation, British Environmental Ministry, and International Inion of Air Pollution."

However, instead of flying straight to London from D.C., he first went to Los Angeles, where he stayed for three nights at Le Merigot, a four-star Los Angeles Marriott next to the "ravishing Santa Monica beachfront."

Beale then spent four nights at the five-star London Marriott Hotel County Hall, which offers "traditionally elegant accommodations with breathtaking views overlooking Big Ben and the River Thames."

The EPA fully reimbursed Beale for $23,109, including $1,100 in meals and incidental expenses. However, Beale was scrupulous about noting personal expenses, such as his room service wine.

The EPA Inspector General said it determined that Beale charged the government approximately $300,000 in travel expenses between 2003 and 2011.

The travel vouchers reviewed by the Free Beacon, which covered 2008 through 2011, all lacked certification signatures and dates. The EPA public affairs office did not return requests for comment on why the signature lines were left bank.

Additionally, the EPA redacted the names of the supervisors who approved Beale’s travel expenses in the vouchers obtained by the Free Beacon through a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to the EPA Inspector General, Beale was never held accountable for his excessive spending. An executive assistant brought the issue up to her supervisor, but was told not to question it, because Beale was a senior official and a CIA agent.

Because he was allowed to retire, Beale is still entitled to a full federal pension, which is based on his highest average salary during a three-year period. By the time he retired, his base salary was $165,300, not counting a 25 percent retention bonus he had been illegally receiving for more than a decade.

Republican lawmakers are calling on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to rescind Beale’s federal pension, or at the least ensure he is not compensated for the roughly two and a half years he was absent from work.

Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta on Tuesday calling on the office to ensure that Beale is not improperly compensated for years of service he never performed.

"It’s hard to believe that the circus surrounding EPA’s complete mismanagement of Beale and his years of flagrant deception is continuing to escalate," Vitter said in a statement.

"It is outrageous that the law entitles Beale to any portion of his federal pension. At the very minimum, he should not receive anything more than what the law requires," Vitter said. "The American people have already been defrauded once, so I hope OPM will step in to recalculate what Beale’s pension should be so as to minimize any further injustice."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) introduced a bill that would ban government employees who are convicted of embezzling or stealing taxpayer money from receiving a federal pension.

OPM did not respond to a request for comment.

EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, while testifying before the House Oversight Committee recently, said the agency is taking steps to review and improve its oversight of employee travel.

Published under: EPA