John C. Beale, once the Environmental Protection Agency's highest-paid employee, went to great lengths to avoid doing his job as a senior policy advisor. On Wednesday, he'll find out how much time he'll have to serve in jail for it, after pleading guilty to defrauding the government out of almost $900,000 in salary and benefits for the last decade.

NBC News has a pretty good round-up of Beale's transgressions, including:

  • Not going to work. For months at a time, totaling two and a half years. He explained his absence by claiming to be "engaged in intelligence work for the CIA, either at agency headquarters or in Pakistan." In reality, he was "home riding bikes, doing housework and reading books, or at a vacation house on Cape Cod," making him about as much of a CIA agent as Claire Danes.
  • Fake retiring. Though he had a retirement party in September 2011 and stopped working, he collected a paycheck until he retired for real (upon finding out he was finally under investigation) last April.
  • Being a good son. He billed the government $57,000 for flights to California to visit his parents. It's nice that he cares about them, but, you know, he's supposed to pay for that stuff himself.
  • Flying first class and staying at really nice hotels for years, charging twice the government per diem maximum, to a tune of $266,190. He stayed at a $1,066 per night hotel in London for four nights and told investigators, when confronted with the cost, "even I am outraged by this." Um.
  • Claiming to have malaria from his service in Vietnam (which got him a special disabled parking space that somehow cost the EPA $8,000 over three years, the Washington Post adds). He didn't have malaria and didn't serve in Vietnam. That probably goes without saying at this point.

While Beale's actions are a testament to one man's greed, laziness and self-delusion, they also show the utters failings of the system that allowed him to get away with this for so long -- at the tax payer's expense. The EPA's assistant inspector general Patrick Sullivan, who ran the Beale investigation, told NBC News: "There's a certain culture here at the EPA where the mission is the most important thing. They don’t think like criminal investigators. They tend to be very trusting and accepting."

They sure are. Beale's claims that he was a CIA agent date back to 1994. No one bothered to check to see if they were true, no matter how fantastic they seemed or how much work they caused him to miss.

In 2010, the EPA was warned that Beale's salary exceeded legal limits and told to stop paying him bonuses. That, apparently, was ignored, as Beale's bonuses continued until February of this year. He was also given bonuses for over 20 years more than he was supposed to, due to some kind of administrative error.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy knew something was up in March 2012 when she noticed that Beale was still collecting a paycheck despite having "retired" the previous September. But when she contacted the EPA's general counsel about the matter, it was referred to the wrong office, delaying the investigation for months, the Washington Post says.

That vacation home in Cape Cod? Beale used to co-own it with his BFF and boss Robert Brenner, who recommended that Beale receive all those bonuses. Brenner, incidentally, was recently questioned over an $8,000 discount on a Mercedes he received that was arranged by a lobbyist. He retired in 2011, around the same time as Beale pretended to. According to Politico, Beale has been staying in Brenner's guest room while awaiting sentence. Brenner claims to have no knowledge that Beale was up to anything untoward. He refused to be interviewed by the EPA's investigators.

Beale faces 30 to 37 months in prison. He will collect a nice pension for the rest of his life.

Anyway, whatever, I can't finish this post because I have to go on a secret mission for the CIA now.