A former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer pleaded guilty of falsely posing as a covert CIA officer and defrauding companies of more than $4.4 million, the Department of Justice said Thursday.
Garrison Kenneth Courtney, 44, lied to several private companies about being a CIA officer, claiming he was involved in a highly classified task force that sought to enhance intelligence-gathering capabilities of the government.
The ex-DEA officer claimed that the companies needed to hire and pay him to create a "commercial cover" for his supposed affiliation with the CIA. Courtney said the companies would be reimbursed for the salary payments in the future, with some of the payback coming in the form of lucrative contracts with the U.S. government.
"Courtney went to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate the illusion that he was a deep-cover operative," the Justice Department said.
As part of his deception, Courtney demanded to meet victims in sensitive compartmented facilities and searched them for electronic devices, all for "counterintelligence" and security purposes.
Courtney also made victims and witnesses sign fake nondisclosure agreements and threatened the termination of their supposed security clearances and possible criminal prosecution if victims leaked or pursued information about the fake program.
To further legitimize his story and background, Courtney concocted fake letters supposedly issued by the attorney general of the United States that granted blanket immunity to those who participated and aided Courtney.
Courtney also convinced real government officials of his fake CIA officer identity and story, using them as "unwitting props falsely to burnish his legitimacy" the Justice Department said.
To further his scheme, Courtney gained a position working as a private contractor for the National Institute of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center. It was there that 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, Courtney faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He heads back to court for sentencing October 23.