But when it comes to pumping up their resumes, some people don't believe in moderation. Instead, they claim to be with the CIA. Yes, the Central Intelligence Agency. These are people who try to pass themselves off as spies. The latest example is John Beale, the highest-paid employee of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to NBC News. Prosecutors claim that he pretended he was in the CIA as an excuse to avoid doing his actual work. In September the climate change expert pleaded guilty to defrauding the government of nearly $1 million in unearned pay and benefits over the course of ten years.
There was even a period of 18 months in which he literally did no work. What was he actually doing instead of some clandestine operation? Exercising and working on his house.
"Why did I do this? Greed – simple greed – and I'm ashamed of that greed," Beale told the court. He also said it was possible that he got a "rush" and a "sense of excitement" by telling people he worked for the CIA. "It was something like an addiction," he said.
Beale received a 32-month sentence, but that probably won't discourage the people who decide to make spying their imaginary part-time job. For example, there was Stephen Sprayberry who allegedly claimed a CIA affiliation during a traffic stop by some Alabama state troopers, according to the story by the Mobile Press-Register and AL.com.
However, this man was better prepared than most. He supposedly had a fake CIA identity card, as well as two handguns in shoulder holsters. When they searched his car, the troopers found more fake IDs, including one stating that Sprayberry was a Calhoun, Ala. county deputy, along with marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
The connection between doing something illegal and claiming to be a CIA official seems to be a little more common than you might think. Herson Torres claimed that he was robbing Virginia banks for the CIA earlier this year, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Sound crazy? It eventually turned out that Torres and some other people had been conned in an elaborate scheme of 26-year-old Joshua Brady, who lived with his mother, grandmother, and 10-year-old brother. Prosecutors claimed that in the past Brady had impersonated a computer consultant and law student and had used a forged judge's signature.
There are even spies who impersonate spies. Last year, Israeli newspaper Haaretz ran a story about agents of Mosad, Israel's intelligence service, who had impersonated CIA operatives to recruit Pakistani militants to attack and undermine the Iranian government.
In general, the minute someone claims to be with an intelligence service, you can rule it out as a possibility. CIA agents are prohibited from discussing their work and affiliation, according to private investigator Thomas Martin, who is at times asked by a poseur's spouse whether the person really is a CIA agent or Navy SEAL, a line they use to cover up disappearances.
"The likelihood your spouse is in the CIA is up there with the likelihood of you winning the lottery, twice," he writes.