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EPA worker who falsely claimed CIA work sentenced to prison

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adviser who cheated the government out of $886,186 through lies such as claiming to work for the CIA was sentenced on Wednesday to 32 months in prison.

John Beale, 65, of New York, skipped work for 2-1/2 out of 13 years while claiming to be working on a project for the Central Intelligence Agency's operations directorate and other jobs, prosecutors said.

Beale's ability to dodge work and still get paid a bonus raised anger among lawmakers who questioned the EPA's oversight performance and prompted reforms at the agency.

He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in September to theft of government property.

Under terms of his plea agreement, Beale will pay $886,186 to the EPA in restitution and forfeit another $507,207, according to the Justice Department.

He was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle.

"John Beale spent a decade telling one fantastic lie after another to steal our tax dollars," said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. in a statement. "At some point, his commitment to public service warped into a sense of entitlement fueled by greed."

Prosecutors said Beale, a former top deputy to current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, falsely claimed to have malaria in order to get a parking space worth $200 a month.

He also was reimbursed $57,235 for five trips to California for a research project that was never completed.

Beale, who had worked at the EPA since 1989, also was given a three-year, 25 percent incentive bonus to stay with the EPA which instead lasted 13 years, prosecutors have said.

WORKING AT "LANGLEY"

From January 2000 to April 2013, Beale worked for the Office of Air and Radiation as a senior policy adviser, putting him among the highest-paid non-elected federal employees.

As part of his absences, Beale dodged work at EPA offices for about six months, starting in June 2008. He claimed to be working on the research project or for "Langley," the CIA headquarters, but never submitted a leave request and still drew his EPA salary.

Around May 2011, Beale said he was retiring from the EPA but continued to get a paycheck even though he did not turn up in the office.

Following the Beale case, the EPA tightened spending oversights, according to reports by the agency's inspector general last week.

The controls include having managers approve each time-card individually rather than as a group, quarterly reviews of time records, approval of trips that cost more than $5,000 and review of all travel vouchers.

The EPA's chief financial officer expects to conclude a review of controls in February, the inspector general's reports said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Gunna Dickson)

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