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Fake CIA spy Garrison Courtney almost ripped off his way to immunity

Tthe scam was bigger than anyone knew.

A conviction note filed in Federal Court by the Department of Justice reveals for the first time the full extent of the fake spy Garrison Courtney’s astonishing ruse: in addition to the $ 4.4 million he personally extracted from his victims over the course of more than four years, he was online for nearly $ 4 billion in Army, Navy and Air Force contracts if the FBI hadn’t caught him.

Even more astonishing, before his fake double cover was blown out, Courtney came “dangerously close” to securing legal approval that could have prevented prosecutors from bringing him to justice, authorities said in the new case.

Courtney, who was a high-profile spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration before embarking on her criminal career, pleaded guilty this summer to one count of wire fraud. As The Daily Beast reported, his scam was so bold and complicated – and misled so many current and former government officials – that seasoned investigators were left behind.

And in a handwritten letter from jail, Courtney claimed his ploy was so big he didn’t know how to stop it without exposing himself as “fraud and failure.”

According to court documents, after quitting her job at the DEA, Courtney created an entirely fictional new character as a deep-cover CIA agent on a top-secret mission critical to national security. He approached defense contractors and convinced them to put him on their payroll so that he looked like an ordinary citizen as he went about his supposedly covert activities. Courtney has promised companies lucrative government contracts in return – and in some cases, delivered.

The memo released ahead of the Oct. 27 sentencing includes part of a spreadsheet that Courtney maintained to track the federal contracts he was fighting for. When investigators disrupted her plot in 2016, Courtney “was seeking to corrupt over $ 3.7 billion in federal government procurement,” prosecutors wrote.

If he was left alone, he would probably be a billionaire by now.

– Former associate of Garrison Courtney

“The government had demands, they knew the demands, and they were going to meet them,” a person implicated in Courtney’s scheme – but who escaped criminal prosecution by cooperating with investigators – told The Daily Beast, explaining that Courtney specifically targeted companies he knew. would be eligible for contracts. “He only needed a little longer, and he would have actually delivered. If he was left alone, he would probably be a billionaire right now.

The scam involved genuine CIA documents, on agency letterhead, and briefings by real government officials and military officers in secure rooms called SCIF. By using these kind of false documents, Courtney was also successful in convincing government employees as well as private citizens that they had been selected to go undercover for the CIA.

In a sealed pre-conviction investigation report, which is noted at the bottom of the page in prosecutors’ memo, Courtney is said to have said: “So many people believed in it and were determined that the ‘program’ be successful. It seemed to me that the program was actually on the verge of becoming real or legitimate given who was involved and how it worked.

Courtney was so convincing that he called on a number of unnamed public officials to end the FBI investigation in the name of national security. One “went so far as to threaten FBI agents with prosecution themselves if they continued their investigation,” according to the memo. Federal authorities say Courtney came “dangerously close” to effectively immunizing herself from prosecution “by having her bogus program legitimized under the National Security Act. If Courtney had convinced officials to sign a so-called Security Classification Guide giving the program real legal coverage, “it’s scary to consider what the defendant could have accomplished,” the note said.

Since everything was supposed to be highly classified, none of his notes were allowed to mention Courtney’s bogus program for fear of prosecution. In fact, this apparently remains a problem for investigators.

“Investigators generally have to confront and overcome the code of silence practiced by organized crime, gang members or corrupt officials,” the prosecutors note said. “But here law enforcement was confronted with normally law-abiding witnesses and victims who categorically refused to speak because they mistakenly believed they had a legal and patriotic duty to remain silent. . In some cases, the accused had deceived his victims so well that years later, despite the active participation of authorized special agents of the FBI, and investigators from the Office of the Inspector General of the CIA and the inspector. general of the intelligence community (who, by status, have access to all information classified in their areas of responsibility …) … certain witnesses again refuse to speak with the prosecution team.

Worse still is the emotional and reputational damage [Courtney] exercised on his victims, ”the prosecutors wrote in their file. “One victim points out that she gave up a strong position and career to take on what she was led to believe was an important role in helping the government with the accused’s bogus agenda. Former colleagues keep this victim at bay and the victim has lost employment opportunities. “

Courtney’s former sidekick, who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition that his name not be used, is a former military intelligence officer. The two worked together at cybersecurity entrepreneur Blue Canopy, one of the companies that gave Courtney the “business cover” he claimed to need. The ex-coworker said his involvement with Courtney ultimately cost him the savings of his life, marriage and honor.

“The FBI agreed not to put my name in there, so I figured I could walk away from it and try to create some semblance of life,” the colleague said. “All I ever wanted to be was an intelligence officer, and I was really good.”

What started as a simple lie turned into something I could no longer control or stop without admitting to being a fraud and a failure.

– Garrison Courtney, in a letter from prison

It all fell apart in 2016 when, according to prosecutors, law enforcement began to “actively probe” Courtney’s good faith. In a secretly taped conversation by the top US Air Force intelligence official, Courtney blatantly lied about the origins of the program, which he called, among others, Alpha-214 and FirstNet.

“In 2013 it was, I don’t remember if it was December 15th or 18th … when all the Snowden fallout happened, basically the industry just got nailed,” he said. Courtney told the manager. “They were losing … about $ 3 trillion … So they had the White House meeting … There was a group of about 15 people who were told, ‘You’re in the private sector. now. We need your coordination with the private sector to align things. Around January 2016, which is now, the government will start working with you to put the portfolio or program in place so that we can start putting in place the appropriate protocols.

Courtney insisted to the official, identified in the file as a lieutenant general, that any questions about the veracity of the program were simply the result of “miscommunication” between officials leaving the Pentagon and their successors.

The FBI raided Courtney’s Florida home a few months later.

“Courtney’s extraordinary ability to deceive and manipulate others, and his brazen use of our government’s powers, reveals that he needs a period of substantial incapacity,” prosecutors wrote.

Last June, Courtney struck a deal and agreed to plead guilty. While on bail, he found a job at Pizza Hut to try to pay his bills, according to a file filed by Courtney’s attorney. But Courtney continued to perpetuate her scam even after her guilty plea, and Courtney was soon returned to jail to await his conviction.

In the file, defense attorney Stuart Sears pointed out that Courtney was struggling with “significant financial problems” when he committed his crimes, but was using that money to support his family and himself. dealing with things like medical bills, not to “support a lifestyle.” That, Sears argued, should be taken into consideration by the sentencing judge. He is seeking a 37-month sentence.

In a handwritten letter to U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady from his jail cell, Courtney explained that “what started as a simple lie turned into something that I could no longer control or stop without admitting that it was. was a fraud and a failure.

In the note, which covered four pages of lined notebook paper, Courtney said he regretted “for causing others to become less trusting in the government with which they interact.” He admitted that “reputations have been tarnished”, that companies have “suffered real financial losses” and that government resources have been wasted on the “web” of the lies he has spun.

He then promised to use his time in prison to improve himself.

“Like I said at the start, it’s an overwhelming feeling (sic) to walk into a jail cell and know that this will be my home for the foreseeable future,” Courtney wrote. “I will spend the time in jail restoring the trust I have lost with my family and others. I will serve my time with dignity and honor. “

He mentioned his (actual) military service, his graduate degree from George Mason University and his “five wonderful boys”. He also promised to be a model inmate, noting that he had “already started this process”.

“I will do whatever it takes to prove to my children that they can still be proud of their father,” continued Courtney. “Being separate (sic) from them and knowing that I won’t be there to help them raise them has been emotionally devastating for them and myself. But it is my fault and my fault alone and my path to redemption will be to make sure that they know this and will strive not to make the same mistakes that I did.

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