A former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official has pled guilty to a federal charge that over more than a decade, he carried out a scheme to cheat the government of almost $900,000 in salary and benefits that he was not entitled to, the Dept. of Justice said.

John C. Beale, 64, who worked for EPA from 1989 until last April 30 in the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, entered a guilty plea to a charge of theft of federal property on Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

For much of his stint at EPA, which spanned the George W. Bush administration and nearly all of the Obama administration to date, Beale was a senior policy advisor in the agency’s air and radiation office.

According to a “statement of offense” that Beale and federal officials signed, from about 2000 until he left EPA, Beale did not report to work for long periods of time and failed to submit the necessary requests for leave. All told, the document says, in his 14 years with EPA, Beale was paid for about two and a half years of work when he wasn't actually on the job.

Beale has agreed to repay the $886,186 in fraudulently received pay and benefits plus another $507,207 in a monetary judgment.  A sentencing date has not yet been set. The maximum sentence for theft of government property is 10 years in prison and the fine could be as much as $250,000, the Justice Dept. said.

For part of the period during which Beale took time off, he falsely claimed he “was assigned to an inter-agency, special advisory group” that was working with the Central Intelligence Agency’s operations directorate, according to the statement filed in court.

In about May 2011, Beale announced he was retiring from EPA. Several months later he and two other co-workers had a retirement party, attended by others from the agency, on a cruise boat on the Potomac River.  But in November 2012, an EPA manager found out that Beale still was getting a federal paycheck, the Justice Dept. said.

Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a statement that Beale “stole from the government for more than a decade by telling lies of outlandish proportions.”

EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr., said, “An absence of even basic internal controls at the EPA allowed an individual to commit multiple frauds over a long period of time.”