To Succeed At EPA: Watch Tons Of Porn, (Don't) Work From Home, Or Pretend You're A Secret Agent

from the my-uncle-made-$1000000-from-home-using-this-SIMPLE-TRICK! dept

The new get-rich-quick-scheme is this: go to work for the US government.

Or rather, go to "work" for the US government.

Or, screw it... let's not even go to work.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has just released the results of an investigation into employee fraud at the EPA. The environment, which seems to actually be in need of protecting, is being "overseen" by employees that can't even be bothered to show up for work. (via Reason Hit & Run)

[An] EPA manager [...] allowed an employee to stay at home and not report for duty for several years... [T]his EPA manager not only entered fraudulent time-and-attendance records for the absent employee but also approved the same fraudulent records. It is estimated that the manager's approval of fraudulent time-and-attendance records cost the government more than $500,000...
Telecommuting: the wave of the future! Stay at home, do some work, and all without changing out of your pajamas.
This senior executive, who was the absent employee's prior supervisor, remained aware that the employee had been teleworking for more than 20 years with very little substantive work product to show during this time...
Two decades of pajama-wearing non-production, and all this employee has to show for it is a half-million dollars... and a wall full of Employee of the Month awards.
Even more egregious is that this EPA manager authored and approved exemplary performance appraisals that resulted in a cash award for the absent employee.
If telecommuting seems like too much of a hassle, you could just turn the government's national security fervor against itself and do whatever it is you'd rather be doing with your time, all while collecting a paycheck, as in the case of a "Mr. Beale":
The investigation also revealed that [a] senior executive did not exercise due diligence, in part because she believed [...] that Mr. Beale worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. She never questioned Mr. Beale further, she said, because she believed the questioning might compromise national security...

This unwillingness to question issues of purported national security enabled this senior executive to authorize or approve fraudulent time-and-attendance records and travel vouchers in excess of $180,000.
Here's where the War on Terror meets mid-level management. The government's "Insider Threat" program has employees worried that questioning government policies, much less an EPA employee's claims that he's doing important NATSEC work, will see them quickly and forcibly ejected from the corner cubicle and deposited directly into the bowels of the nearest SuperMax.

Mr. Beale's important CIA work apparently involved collecting paychecks and cash "reimbursements" from the EPA for nearly a decade.
Our investigation indicated that the senior executive approved, or authorized the approval of, fraudulent time-and-attendance records and travel vouchers for Mr. Beale from 2000 through 2010...
Mr. Beale (prior to his indictment) racked up a tab approaching $1 million, all collected from US citizens, most of whom actually have to go to work in order to get paid.

There's likely a lot more abuse where that came from, but Deputy Assistant Inspector Allan Williams' summary doesn't detail presumably ongoing investigations. It does, however, ominously note that the above person was "not the only EPA manager who was allowing employees not to report for duty."

Mr. Beale may be headed for jail but the "telecommuter" detailed above, who put in 20 years of service without leaving his home or lifting a finger, walked away clean, as did his fraudulent partners back at the office.
Upon receiving a target letter from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the senior executive retired and was not prosecuted. Furthermore, the DOJ declined to prosecute either the absent employee or the current supervisor.
The OIG report also details the misconduct related to an employee suffering from a debilitating disease that prevents him from fulfilling his duties. At the time of the investigation, the employee was actually residing in an assisted living facility. The EPA kindly allowed him to telecommute, but like its other long-distance workers, not much actual work was being done.
[E]mployee has not been physically able to complete any work for at least the last year; however, this employee continues to draw a full salary and receive the benefits of an active employee [...] and has been allowed to remain on telework status for several years without providing any substantive work product.
And, finally, if you can be bothered to show up at work, there's nothing obligating you to perform anything more strenuous than some wrist/thumb movement.
[A] career EPA employee [...] allegedly stored pornographic materials on an EPA network server shared by colleagues [...] The OIG's investigation determined that the employee downloaded and viewed more than 7,000 pornographic files during duty hours...
And it's not just what the OIG discovered when it peeked into the server. It's what the employee was actually doing when the OIG stopped by.
When an OIG special agent arrived at this employee's work space to conduct an interview, the special agent witnessed the employee actively viewing pornography on his government-issued computer.
The employee subsequently admitted to spending two to six hours a day viewing and downloading porn. This would seem excessive on a home computer, much less on your employer's computer. This too has been passed along to the DOJ for potential prosecution, but if an employee can spend 20 years not working for the US government and walk away with nearly a million dollars' worth of compensation without being prosecuted, I would imagine this porn aficionado will be served with little more than a minor slap on his well-used wrist.

The OIG continues to provide the valuable service of showing taxpayers just how badly their money is being abused. Unfortunately, it can't do much more than investigate. It's up to the agencies to fix their problems and many of those investigated seem completely unwilling to do any more than is absolutely unavoidable. The DOJ's scattershot approach to punishing wrongdoers indicates there's at least a 50/50 chance that years of fraud and misconduct will result in nothing harsher than an opportunity to exit gracefully -- and without being named.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 4:57am

    The employee subsequently admitted to spending two to six hours a day viewing and downloading porn.

    Virgin EPA employee, this is a real vagina. Vagina, this is Virgin EPA employee. Have fun.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    HT, May 9th, 2014 @ 5:55am

    I've got no problem with "Telecommuter"

    Employees need to be managed - that's why MANAGERS are employed. If the manager lets the employee get away with anything then it's the MANAGERS fault. Remember, the employee wouldn't have been able to get away with this if the manager effectively performance managed them twenty years ago when they stopped turning up work.

    The supervisor should be sacked and made to pay back all of the lost wages from the employee because THEY let the money walk out the door.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2014 @ 6:06am

    Sounds like 'no show' jobs that are rewarded to family members of congress, as a reward for passing bills the executive branch and their lobbyist friends want signed into law.

    The fact the DOJ is refusing to prosecute anyone involved, smacks of the executive branch's involvement with assigning these people to the 'no show' jobs at the EPA.

    I can see through my corrupt government's actions like I have X-Ray vision, and it makes me sick to my stomach!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2014 @ 6:22am

    sounds like the 20 year dude either had some grade A blackmail material, or did a fight club. Either way, promote that guy! He really knows how to cut through the red tape!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Someantimalwareguy, May 9th, 2014 @ 6:25am

    No acountability for deliverables

    I have been a telecommuter since the late 90's in a highly competitive industry. It has been a boon to both my career AND my work flow to be able to have an "office" anywhere in world where there is an Internet connection and a conference phone (or Skype).

    During this time, I have had deliverables and deadlines I had to meet with my managers actively holding my feet to the fire to not only do the work, but to provide a high quality work product.

    Not having rigid, specific hours has allowed me to be more productive than being held captive within a cubicle farm. It has also allowed me to be more creative and independent without someone constantly looking over my shoulder.

    Telecommuting is a two way street that requires discipline and active interest in the activities from both the employee and their managers. If either shirks their responsibilities the whole thing falls apart and this is where the EPA and also Yahoo went wrong.

    If the job requires someone to perform the task or service then it is just as important for the manager or ownership (ref: startup) to follow up regularly for status reports and deliverables - it is really that simple...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    David, May 9th, 2014 @ 6:30am

    Tell you what:

    I prefer paying some government employee for twiddling his thumb and other appendages to bonafide porn than paying him to do so shuffling through my drawers.

    The NSA is way more expensive, and what they do is not merely wasting taxpayer money but rather using it to the taxpayers' detriment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, May 9th, 2014 @ 6:38am

    Re:

    At my gov run institute, a proxy prevents such things (not 100% I'm sure) and if we find just one image, do not pass "go", fired.

    There's no excuse for them not to have a proxy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, May 9th, 2014 @ 6:45am

    Bed

    I am with the government and I assure you that I don't get out of bed until taxpayers pay me 80k.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    New Mexico Mark, May 9th, 2014 @ 6:52am

    Ha! The DOJ has much better things to do than prosecute ordinary crime.

    Maybe if we got Hollywood to yank their DOJ lackey's chains, we could get something done. I'm betting some of the porn viewed violated that scary FBI warning I have to watch at the beginning of movies. Up to $500,000 fine? Sounds like only a few violations would be right in the ballpark of what was defrauded from the government. Up to ten years in jail for the manager(s) for complicity by not preventing this horrible behavior (by which I mean enabling someone to watch stuff without paying, not some silly prank like defrauding the government for years) might help send a message as well.

    "Feel free steal millions from hard working citizens, but if you dare steal a penny from our fat cat buddies in Hollywood. We will hunt you to the ends of the earth for that. We will make your life a living hell. (All at taxpayer expense, of course.)"
    The DOJ unofficial policy manual

    What a travesty.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2014 @ 6:53am

    Two to six hours a day of porn? Well if anything he can probably get a good job selling Shake Weights.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Within Reason, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:04am

    Re:

    Do I need to add some snark about how porn provides distorted images of women and sex, creating unrealistic expectations in people who don't know much about the real deal?

    Meeting a real vagina can be scary for people used to seeing porn stars who have had a lot of work done down there.

    That said, perhaps if we had a censorship office of some kind our porn-loving public servants can be gainfully employed rating it. /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Within Reason, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:06am

    Re: Ha! The DOJ has much better things to do than prosecute ordinary crime.

    Oh, good point. If his downloads were unauthorized, he can be prosecuted for infringement. Where are Prenda when you need them?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re:

    > and if we find just one image, do not pass "go", fired.

    Talk about chilling effects. If I worked at your place, for sure I would only browse using a smartphone with uncensored net access. Even for browsing for work reasons. A pretty big thumbs down for working at your institute.

    OTOH, your enthusiastic enforcement means that my fitting a small, inconspicuous device to anyone's keyboard cable could enable me to get him fired at will. I wouldn't find that an advantage, but I'm sure lots of assholes would.

    OTOH, anyone could fit one of those on my computer. OK, for sure now I'm not getting near your workplace. Or it that what you really meant by

    > There's no excuse for them not to have a proxy

    as in, "them", the individual workers, running their own filtering software, trying to keep their jobs?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:18am

    Re:I've got no problem with "Telecommuter"

    > I've got no problem with "Telecommuter"

    You do seem to either have a problem with personal ethics, or the ability to expect ethical behavior in others. "Telecommuter" was stealing taxpayers' money, and not in the "government is inefficient" sense, in a very direct sense which said "Telecomuter" should have been aware of.

    Frankly, in this story, something smells, and if I were investigating, the first possibility I'd investigate was that said "Telecommuter" was blackmailing said manager.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:22am

    Re: Re:

    Which may lead to false positives and overblocking. The overblocking thing is a bad enough issue at my workplace that we can't do our job because the blocks prevent us from using useful products just because they may be used for file sharing. I was recently trying to share a several dozen mb file for publishing purposes (it's a water quality essay) and our network was blocking FTPs and all cloud storage. The solution was to get a car and deliver the file on a physical CD in a place over 30km away.

    As for porn, on my last company a guy was called for porn because an advertisement slipped by on some site he was accessing while looking for sources for a technical work and he almost got fired. The thing is, he was working directly to the president and this got the restrictions relaxed. The place did not turn into a porn heaven because you need to deliver results. If you don't deliver what is expected from you you are fired. The EPA seems to be an exception.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:22am

    Re: Re:

    Pixelation!!!!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:25am

    Re: Re: Re:

    them as in the EPA and their IT.

    It is chilling but it's meant that way. We don't mess with people using public funded systems for personal use. We have no problem with users bringing in their smartphones, etc. Just so long as it doesn't use the public funded equipment, then it's a manager/hr issue.

    If somebody tried to attach a device (we have those blocked btw), they couldn't xfer the data. We have device control as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re:

    There's no excuse for them not to have a proxy.

    Yes, there is: web-filter proxies are stupid, ineffective, and used exclusively by inexperienced and incompetent network managers who are more of a danger to their operations than the people surfing porn sites.

    Trying to solve a human problem ("surfing porn on the job") with technical measures is a prima facie indicator of profound ignorance not just on a functional level, but a practical one: everyone KNOWS that these proxies are ridiculously profitable scams peddled by scumbags and that they're trivially easy to bypass.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    PRMan, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You block keyboards that look just like the normal keyboard that will type up a porn address and hit enter?

    Wow, you guys are really advanced.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    PRMan, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, we have one at my current workplace and I have almost never run into it. And no, I haven't tested it for porn, but I have seen it pop up every time NCAA is mentioned in the article for some reason.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    PRMan, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:45am

    Re: Re:I've got no problem with "Telecommuter"

    Yeah. How does the employee not get arrested for fraud?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Within Reason, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Where's the fun in that? /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:53am

    Re: Re:

    Lots of porn online isn't made by professionals, but everyday normal people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:54am

    Re:

    Yes, sounds like manager material to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:55am

    Re: Tell you what:

    Where do you think they got the porn?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh such a keyboard could try. Then our proxy says, nope, you can't go there. User gets a warning of site blocked for porn.
    Said user would probably go 'wtf?!' and we'd be contacted to investigate the computer and not the person.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Fushta (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 8:08am

    Re: Telecommuting

    The biggest difference between working in an office, and working at home?



    Pants

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Josh (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 8:18am

    Job

    How to I get ahold of this manager and force them to give me a job, while keeping my current job. They will, of course, have to pay for my travel to and from my current job and I will prove I am working by remoting into the server.

    I could also setup a server to store data and lease it out, promoting government type security.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 8:29am

    Re: I've got no problem with "Telecommuter"

    "If the manager lets the employee get away with anything then it's the MANAGERS fault."

    AND the employee's. Mostly the employees -- they aren't children, after all. But you're right, both the manager and employee should be disciplined.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, May 9th, 2014 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well here, our incidences of porn surfing went down nearly 100% when the proxies first went in. It was painful for the first couple of months getting the policies on the proxy setup and clearing the false positives (proxy thinks it's a dining page when it's not).

    A combination of proxy, firewall, device control and NAC makes it pretty hard to bypass.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2014 @ 8:50am

    whoa whoa whoa don't all apply at once. Let's face it for 20 years someone was living the dream. Sad it was on the tax payer dollar but I want to know if there has been a rise in applications to the EPA after this came out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 10:53am

    It is estimated that the manager's approval of fraudulent time-and-attendance records cost the government more than $500,000...

    ...but it was cheaper and easier than firing him.

    she believed [...] that Mr. Beale worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. She never questioned Mr. Beale further, she said, because she believed the questioning might compromise national security...

    I'm actually surprised there isn't more of this. There's so much secrecy these days that it's hard to verify anything. Take National Security Letters, for example: How do you really know that the "agent" handing you the letter is an FBI agent? You're not allowed to ask anyone else, so it seems to me it is perfect for false-flag NSL's.

    And now, Mr. Beale: How would the supervisor check to see if he was a CIA agent? The CIA would deny they employ him, whether he's an agent or not. What action would comprise "due diligence" under these conditions?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    OldMugwump (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 10:57am

    Re: Living the dream

    Maybe that's the future - everybody vegging out while robots do the work.

    But somehow I'm uncomfortable with the idea that "the dream" is living as a parasite on the work of others.

    Maybe I'm missing something here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Gaming_Geek (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 11:10am

    I wonder if the employee actually had another job and this way used the EPA job for pleasure spending.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    > User gets a warning of site blocked for porn.

    OK, put your job where your mouth is. I dare you to upload original (or at least modified so that the content itself won't be automatically identified) porn to imgur.com (or any other image/file hosting site on the net) and then test your proxy's ability to block it. (You don't have to turn yourself in, in case you were wrong. Just be careful not to pee your pants from the anxiety.)

    Or, possibly you could admit that your idealized world isn't, well, exactly reality?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, May 9th, 2014 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I would but imgur.com is blocked. We started with the closed-then-open method.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 12th, 2014 @ 4:17am

    This kind of thing isn't new, isn't a speciality of government, and wasn't created by telecommuting.

    A friend of mine many years ago (early 1970's) worked at major company in New Jersey. Soon after he got there, he discovered a "co-worker" who had a nice office, apparently drew a nice salary - but only seemed to show up every once in a while, when he was very friendly, bought my friend lunch, but did no obvious work. My friend asked his boss about this guy and was told "He was here when I got here. The guy who I replaced told me he'd been here for years and not to ask any questions - just approve whatever he asks for."

    My friend actually got to know the phantom employee fairly well - and the phantom was eventually quite open about his *real* job: He was fairly highly placed in an organized crime family. He eventually saw objective evidence that this was actually true - like the evening the phantom invited my friend to a fancy dinner, they had their car stopped by someone who spoke quietly to the phantom - who announced that "it wasn't a good night" at the restaurant and took him elsewhere. The next morning, the papers were full of stories about a mob hit at the restaurant they passed on.

    But the 1970's is modern times. The Roman army had to develop procedures to detect and foil officers who created phantom troops and kept their salaries. That's where rules like "the person who authorizes cannot approve" come from. Bureaucratic rules take on a life of their own, but many originally arose to solve real problems - sometimes problems "as old as the hills".

    -- Jerry

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), May 14th, 2014 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    > We started with the closed-then-open method.

    I posit, then, that either your net access is more or less useless, or you could have actually taken my challenge.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2014 @ 10:51am

    Lookin' for love in all the wrong places...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.