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Former DEA spokesman sentenced in $4.4 million scheme while posing as CIA secret agent

Victims, witnesses asked to sign fake nondisclosure agreements, told they being tracked by hostile foreign intelligence agents

(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Updated: October 29, 2020 - 7:57pm

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A former Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman will spend seven years behind bars after being convicted of bilking roughly $4.4 million from companies that believed he was a secret agent for the CIA, the Department of Justice said.

According to law enforcement officials, Garrison Kenneth Courtney claimed to be part of a covert CIA task force to enhance national security. The 44-year-old Tampa man convinced various companies to hire him to provide "commercial cover" that would mask his true identity as a secret agent. In return, according to the DOJ, Courtney promised reimbursement and in some cases, lucrative government contracts.

"In truth, Courtney had never been employed by the CIA, and the task force that he described did not exist," the DOJ wrote in a statement Wednesday.

As part of the complex scheme, prosecutors said, Courtney instructed victims and witnesses to sign fake nondisclosure agreements, and told them they were being tracked by hostile foreign intelligence agents.

Among other machinations designed to undermine the investigation into his activities, Courtney persuaded a public official to threaten FBI investigators with prosecution, and told victims they were on the verge of being arrested, according to the DOJ.

According to prosecutors, Courtney crafted a number of dramatic but false stories about his military service, including that he was credited with hundreds of confirmed kills in combat, and that a hostile foreign intelligence agency tried to poison him with ricin.  

"Courtney’s brazen scheme and manipulation was fueled by his own greed, all while invoking the secrecy of 'national security' to hide his lies," said Steven D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

The former public affairs officer, Courtney, was arrested for the scheme earlier this year. He faced up to 20 years in prison. He reached a deal with prosecutors in June, agreeing to fully repay his victims, and pleading guilty to wire fraud in exchange for the shorter sentence.

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