Ex-DEA Official was Impersonating CIA Operative to Defraud Firms

Published: 15 June 2020

It wasn't just civilians who were convinced, several government officials were also duped, becoming unwitting participants in the scheme. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

By David Klein

A former US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) employee pleaded guilty on Thursday to orchestrating a multimillion dollar fraud scheme in which he impersonated a CIA officer and persuaded several companies to hire him so he could conduct his secret activities while pretending to be their employee. 

 Garrison Kenneth Courtney of Tampa, Florida, told those companies that they would ultimately be reimbursed for his salary by the CIA. He defrauded this way over a dozen firms for more than US$4.4 million, a US Department of Justice statement said.  

“According to court documents, Courtney falsely claimed to be a covert officer of the CIA involved in a highly-classified program or ‘task force’ involving various components of the United States Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense,” read the statement. 

Among the employers he lied to were also federal entities such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC.)

“Courtney went to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate the illusion that he was a deep-cover operative,” said the statement. 

“Among other things, he falsely claimed that his identity and large portions of his conduct were classified; directed victims and witnesses to sign fake nondisclosure agreements that purported to be from the U.S. government and that forbade anyone involved from speaking openly about the supposedly classified program,” the statement said.

 Courtney would tell other employees that they were under surveillance by hostile foreign intelligence services and made a show of searching people for electronic devices as part of his supposed counterintelligence methods. 

He would also demand that his victims meet in sensitive compartmented information facilities to make it look that they were participating in a classified intelligence operation.

 Those who would question his legitimacy he would threaten with revocation of their security clearance and criminal prosecution, the DoJ said.

 His lies didn’t end there. Part of his package was a complex and aggrandizing personal backstory according to which “he had served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War, had hundreds of confirmed kills while in combat, sustained lung injuries from smoke caused by fires set to Iraq’s oil fields, and that a hostile foreign intelligence service had attempted to assassinate him by poisoning him with ricin.”

“All of these claims were false,” said the statement.