Senator Vitter wants investigation into EPA fraud case

A former official with the EPA has been charged with stealing more than $880,000 from the agency and Senator David Vitter wants Congress to investigate.

The Associated Press is reporting that John C. Beale, a former deputy assistant administrator in the Office of Air and Radiation, is accused of stealing a total of $886,186 between 2000 and April of this year. Current EPA chief Gina McCarthy worked in the same office with Beale.

A document filed by the Justice Department says Beale stole the money by collecting bonuses and extra salary.

Beale, 64, of Arlington, Va., faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and financial penalties if convicted. He worked at the EPA for at least two decades under several presidents. He was a top deputy to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who headed the Air and Radiation office from 2009 until taking over the agency last month.

An agency spokeswoman said the EPA is coordinating closely with its inspector general and the Justice Department on the complaint.

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, the top Republican on the Senate Environment Committee, called the accusations appalling.

"This fraud was occurring for many years at the EPA's critical Air office, and during a period of time that Gina McCarthy was the administrator of the Air office," Vitter said in a statement. "It's clear that further investigations are necessary."

At the very least, McCarthy is guilty of incompetence. And Vitter isn't convinced that the Beale case isn't just the tip of the iceberg:

"There appears to be corruption to the umpteenth degree," at the EPA, Vitter said in a statement Saturday.

"It's clear that further investigations are necessary, and at the appropriate time we'll need answers - a whole lot of answers," he added.

If Beale could get away with his crimes for 13 years, Vitter is probably right. It wouldn't be surprising if Beale wasn't alone in his ghost payroll scam.

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