TV pundit who claimed CIA ties pleads guilty to fraud

AP News
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Posted: Apr 29, 2016 3:27 PM

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Former cable news pundit Wayne Simmons admits he's a fraud. And he admits he's a felon. But despite all evidence to the contrary, he remains adamant that he was a CIA man.

Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, struck an unusual plea agreement Friday in U.S. District Court in Annapolis. He admitted defrauding the government out of $78,000 by lying about his credentials to obtain jobs as a government contractor. He also admitted cheating a private citizen out of nearly $100,000 by claiming he could invest her money in real estate.

But when it comes to his claims about the CIA, the wording in his plea agreement walks a fine line. He admits that "there are no records or any other evidence that the defendant had ever been employed by or worked with the CIA." And in his plea agreement, he acknowledges that continuing to claim a CIA career could result in an increased sentence because he would not get credit for acceptance of responsibility.

Still, Simmons made clear during and after Friday's hearing that he's sticking to his story about a life in the CIA, where he claimed a 27-year career as an "Outside Paramilitary Special Operations" officer, according to court records.

Asked after the hearing why the CIA would then be leaving him out to dry, his attorney, Bill Cummings, interjected and said, "That's what they do."

Cummings said there have been similar cases where the CIA has refused to acknowledge an officer's work because it didn't want that work to be exposed.

Simmons said after Friday's hearing that he has been left to fend for himself on the allegation because "my wingman disappeared."

Cummings cut off more detailed questions about why, if Cummings' work was so sensitive, he touted his CIA career on cable news.

The case against Cummings has nothing to do with his work as a pundit, but it proved an embarrassment for Fox News, where he appeared frequently. In a 2009 Fox News clip, he calls House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "a pathological liar" in a segment about CIA interrogation techniques.

Fox has said Simmons was never a paid contributor.

The federal charges included allegations that Simmons defrauded the government when he obtained employment with two contractors, BAE Systems and Drop Test International, by lying about his resume. Among other things, he failed to disclose a felony record and a bankruptcy filing. The government says he also lied about the CIA career and his security clearances.

In the BAE job, he trained for a period in 2008 and 2009 at Fort Leavenworth to be a team leader on a unit that was being sent to Afghanistan, but prosecutors said he performed poorly and was asked to resign before ever going overseas. With Drop Test, prosecutors said he did make it to Afghanistan as a senior intelligence adviser but was forced to leave after only two weeks when his clearance was revoked.

In court Friday, Simmons told the judge that "I believed then and I believe now that my skill sets could be used to fight the Global War on Terror in Afghanistan. In an effort to get to Afghanistan, I made false statements. ... For that, I sincerely apologize."

A CIA spokesman declined to comment Friday.

Simmons will be sentenced July 15. He theoretically faces up to 40 years in prison, though he would likely serve far less than that. If the judge fails to grant him credit for acceptance of responsibility because of his continuing claims of work with the CIA, it would likely add several months to his sentence under federal sentencing guidelines.