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Ex-DEA Official Pleads Guilty To Setting Up Fake Classified Program To Bilk Contractors (#GotBitcoin?)

In court, Garrison Courtney acknowledged that he claimed be a covert CIA officer. Ex-DEA Official Pleads Guilty To Setting Up Fake Classified Program To Bilk Contractors (#GotBitcoin?)

A former spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud, admitting he had created a scheme involving a fake classified program through which he bilked private companies of $4.4 million.

Garrison Courtney, the DEA’s public-affairs officer from 2005 to 2009, acknowledged in federal court in Virginia that he had approached defense and intelligence contractors based in Virginia and elsewhere claiming to be a covert officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, and asked them to hire him to create a cover story masking his supposed CIA role.

Between 2012 and 2016, according to the statement of facts filed in connection with the case, Mr. Courtney, 44 years old, told the companies the supposed classified program had been personally established by the president to support covert special operations forces in Africa. He held meetings with his victims in secure government facilities meant to handle sensitive information and instructed them on counterintelligence methods to further the ruse of the supposed program, the filing said.

He gained access to those secure government facilities by convincing multiple government officials they had been selected for the purported classified program, the filing said. Mr. Courtney created fake documents supposedly from the CIA and the Defense Department to bring the officials into his plan, and had the officials meet with the victim companies and unwittingly echo the false information Mr. Courtney had provided them, it said.

Mr. Courtney told the companies they would be reimbursed for their payments to him through separate contracts with the government, and created fake documents that purported to give the victim companies immunity from prosecution for participating in the program, signed by the attorney general.

When several of the companies began asking why they hadn’t been repaid, Mr. Courtney claimed that the companies had leaked classified information or otherwise breached security, and that these security breaches delayed payment from the government. In another effort at deflection, the filing said, Mr. Courtney accused one person of being an Iranian spy after the person publicly accused Mr. Courtney of engaging in a fraud.

As part of the scheme, Mr. Courtney created an elaborate back story, the document said, in which he claimed to have served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War, killing hundreds in combat and sustaining lung injuries from smoke at Iraq’s oil fields. He also said a foreign intelligence service tried to assassinate him using ricin.

But Mr. Courtney’s military service started after the end of the Gulf War; his breathing difficulties were due to asthma and fighting forest fires in Montana; and he was never the target of an assassination attempt, the filing said.

At an hour-long hearing on Thursday, Mr. Courtney pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

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