Former DEA official sentenced to 7 years in prison for $4.4 million scam


(CNN)A former Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman was sentenced on Wednesday to seven years behind bars for posing as a CIA employee to dupe several people and companies in a $4.4 million scheme.

Garrison Kenneth Courtney pleaded guilty in June to one count of wire fraud for tricking unidentified public officials into believing he worked as an undercover agent and asset for the CIA in order to bilk 13 unidentified companies out of millions of dollars.

“Courtney — along with his five aliases — will now spend the next seven years in federal prison for his deceitful and felonious criminal conduct,” US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger said in a statement.

Courtney had faced a maximum of 20 years in prison.

    “I honestly did not fully appreciate the extent of my conduct and impact it had on countless others until my cell door closed behind me on August 19, 2020,” Courtney wrote to District Judge Liam O’Grady on October 16. “There is something about looking at a pile of jail clothes and blankets and knowing this will be your life for the foreseeable future that you cannot prepare for.”

    In Courtney’s four-page handwritten letter to the judge, he said he knew his apology may fall on deaf ears since his words were “a series of lies” that landed him in federal custody.

    “What started as a simple lie grew into something I could no longer control or stop without admitting to being a fraud and failure,” Courtney wrote.

    Prosecutors with the Eastern District of Virginia had requested that the judge give Courtney “a sentence that will incapacitate a defendant who appears to need little more than his own malice to commit his crimes, and who appears to be deterred by nothing other than imprisonment,” according to their position on sentencing motion.

      Prosecutors also said Courtney became so engulfed in his pretend role as a CIA operative that he was “dangerously” close to being immune from prosecution if he convinced federal officials to legitimize the fraudulent program he created.

      Courtney pleaded guilty on June 11, but while out on bail, prosecutors said, he continued his scheme under the guise of “Devon Azzamoria.” Prosecutors submitted documents related to an IP address and a screenshot of a text message that linked back to Courtney and showed he continued the scam with an unidentified entity that was not a part of his plea agreement. Stuart Sears, Courtney’s attorney, said in court papers that his client denied the allegations.