A former public affairs officer for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has pleaded guilty to defrauding at least a dozen companies of more than $4.4 million by pretending to be a covert CIA officer, the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.
Garrison Kenneth Courtney, 44, lied to numerous private companies about being a covert officer of the CIA, claiming he was involved in a highly-classified task force that sought to enhance intelligence gathering capabilities of the government, the Justice Department statement said.
Here he is when he was with ICE in 2004. pic.twitter.com/6WWhbLcd9K
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) June 11, 2020
Prosecutors say Courney approached private companies that were interested in doing business with the government and told them they needed to hire and pay him to create a “commercial cover” to disguise his affiliation with the CIA.
He also told companies that they would be reimbursed in the future for the payments they made to him, possibly with lucrative contracts from the government that are related to the program.
Courtney had never been employed by the CIA and the task force didn’t exist.
Furthermore, Courtney made up contrived stories about his past experience and the nonexistent program. He allegedly told victims and witnesses to sign fake non-disclosure agreements that binds them to remaining silent about the supposedly classified program and also told them they were under surveillance by hostile foreign intelligence services. He also threatened anyone who questioned the program’s legitimacy.
To bolster his legitimacy, he had also convinced several real government officials that he was working in the “task force,” and would use them to convince victims of his claims. (RELATED: ‘They Murdered My Son’: Department Of Justice Investigating Inmate Death After Being Pepper Sprayed In Cell)
His own backstory was also entirely fraudulent, according to the Justice Department. Courtney claimed he had served in the army during the Gulf War and had hundreds of confirmed kills in combat and that there was an attempted assaination on his life by foreign intelligence services.
Courtney gained a position working as a private contractor for the National Institute of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center by further peddling the charade, where he used his access to sensitive information to corrupt the procurement process by steering the award of contracts from the government organization to companies that were paying him.
After pleading guilty to wire fraud, Courtney will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison when he reappears for sentencing Oct. 23.