Dead Drop: June 19

SCAM OF THE YEAR:  The most surprising thing about the scam that former DEA official Garrison Courtney pled guilty to last week was not that he pretended to be running a secret CIA task force – but that he was successful for quite a while and conned $4.4 million from DC area companies in the process. Courtney, who was chief spokesman for the DEA from 2005 to 2009, apparently found himself in financial difficulty after leaving government. He convinced multiple private companies that he was a covert CIA operative and they should hire him to provide cover for his clandestine Agency activities. According to court records he also got the companies to sign non-disclosure agreements and even give him access to their own business sensitive documents. According to The Washington Post, Courtney also fooled a high-ranking active duty Air Force officer and a senior retired Navy officer with his bogus outfit. Those who began to question his bona fides as he played out his act were accused of mishandling classified information and threatened with prosecution. He also is said to have created fake letters from the Attorney General granting blanket immunity to anyone who participated in his plan.  Clearly, he should have kept one of those for himself. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October and faces a max sentence of 20 years in prison.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL: Former Marine Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian high security prison this week on what seem to almost everyone to be very thin charges alleging he spied on Russia for the U.S.  Whelan had a hand-written sign that he held up for his final court hearing which denounced the trial as a sham. TV cameras were prevented from covering the proceeding, supposedly as a coronavirus precaution. Poor Whelan appears to be cannon fodder on the global stage and despite calls for his release by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he is likely to remain in Russian custody until the U.S. has someone in the slammer the Russians deem worth a trade.

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