Former Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Garrison Courtney was sentenced to seven years in prison on Wednesday for a breathtaking scam that netted him millions of dollars – and could have earned him billions in federal contracts if it hadn’t been caught in time.
The sentence was longer than the 37 months requested by the defense, but less than the 11 to 14 years that prosecutors – who described Courtney as someone with “an extraordinary ability to deceive and manipulate others” – had requested.
Courtney’s attorney told The Daily Beast that her client was a “genuinely remorseful human being who took responsibility for his conduct.
“While there are many explanations for what Mr. Courtney did, he offered no apology,” attorney Stephen Sears said. “He has a long history of serving his country and I hope that upon his release from prison he will once again be a law-abiding member and contributing to society.
Courtney, 44, pleaded guilty last June to a single count of wire fraud, a charge that hardly describes the scale of her scam.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, his scam was so brazen and deceived so many senior U.S. government officials that it took investigators years to piece together what Courtney had done.
After leaving the DEA in 2012, Courtney fraudulently branded herself as a deep-cover CIA agent on a highly classified mission critical to national security. He has convinced at least a dozen companies to add him to their payrolls as part of his supposed “commercial cover,” saying he has to appear like an everyday civilian to stay in the shadows. Courtney has promised the companies lucrative government contracts as repayment – and sometimes delivered, with the help of the military and other government officials who also bought her bogus stories on a top-secret national security mission.
In a statement released following this morning’s sentencing hearing in Virginia federal court, Brian C. Rabbit, acting deputy attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, said Courtney “Had harmed the US intelligence community, individual entrepreneurs and private companies that worked hard to protect our nation.”
“By pretending to be a secret CIA officer involved in a bogus classified task force, Courtney defrauded his victims of over $ 4.4 million. But his elaborate plan could have done far more damage if the Department of Justice and our investigative partners had failed to intervene, ”Rabbit said.
Courtney’s duplicity plan sounded like something out of a dime spy novel. He claimed to be a war hero with hundreds of confirmed casualties during the Gulf War and that a hostile foreign intelligence service attempted to poison him with ricin. None of this was true. Adding a layer of realism to her complaint, Courtney used actual law enforcement, military and intelligence officials as “unintentional props,” according to federal investigators.
However, the Courtney scam didn’t end there. Before his bogus cover was revealed as a sham, he came “dangerously close” to securing legal approval that could have made it nearly impossible for the government to prosecute him. When it didn’t work, he tried to thwart the federal government. ‘investigation by asking his list of public officials – which included many Air Force officers and others who continued to believe Courtney was legitimate – was attempting to shut it down.
When her bogus “operation” was shut down by the FBI in 2016, Courtney “was seeking to corrupt over $ 3.7 billion in federal government procurement,” prosecutors wrote.
“The government had demands, they knew the demands, and they were going to meet the demands,” a person who was sucked into Courtney’s scheme – but who escaped criminal charges by cooperating with investigators – told The Daily Beast. “He only needed a little more time, and he would have actually delivered. If he was left alone, he would probably be a billionaire right now.
In a letter from prison he wrote to the judge handling his case, Courtney lamented the fact that his scheme had gotten so out of hand, explaining that he just didn’t know how to quit without exposing himself as “fraud and a failure”.
Courtney’s attorney, Stuart Sears, did not respond to a request for comment.
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