Wayne Simmons, who appeared as a guest on Fox News claiming to be an ex-CIA employee, has been sentenced to 33 months in prison on fraud charges. Additionally, the 62-year-old Simmons was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Selby Ellis III to serve three years of supervised release, forfeit two firearms and $175,612 in criminal proceeds, and pay restitution to his victims.
Last year, the Justice Department accused him of falsifying his experience as a former “Outside Paramilitary Special Operation Officer” who served in the CIA between 1973 and 2000. He put his fabricated background to use on Fox News, where he appeared as a recurring guest who regularly criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the 2012 attack on the American diplomat compound in Benghazi, Libya.
“Wayne Simmons is a fraud,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Simmons has no military or intelligence background, or any skills relevant to the positions he attained through his frauds. He is quite simply a criminal and a con man, and his fraud had the potential to endanger national security and put American lives at risk in Afghanistan.”
Simmons had pleaded guilty to major fraud against the government, wire fraud and a firearms offense in April 2016, and even though he admitted that no record or evidence existed of his supposed CIA service, he would not admit to making false statements about his record.
Fox News has attempted to distance themselves from Simmons by denying that he was ever a paid contributor, even though he appeared as an expert on military and international relations on the Fox New Channel multiple times from 2002 onwards.
According to Rolling Stone, Simmons used his phony CIA credentials to get on TV and work with the Pentagon:
Simmons was largely anonymous when he first appeared on Fox, in 2002, but he soon became a regular face on the network, alongside a cast of retired military officers who, like Simmons, had been recruited into the Pentagon’s “military-analysts program.” The initiative invited retired officers who had made names for themselves as television-news commentators to attend regular briefings from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and to make trips to Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. In 2009, The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its report on how the Pentagon used the analysts to build public support for the war in Iraq. The program disbanded, and many of those involved tried to distance themselves from it. But Simmons boasted of his connection as a way to bolster his bona fides.
According to prosecutors, Simmons was living a lie. The government charged him with multiple counts of fraud, saying he had never worked for the CIA at all. Prosecutors alleged that Simmons used his supposed intelligence experience not only to secure time on Fox and an audience with [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld, but also to obtain work with defense contractors, including deployment to a military base in Afghanistan. He was also charged with bilking $125,000 from a woman, with whom prosecutors say he was romantically involved, in a real-estate investment that did not exist.
Simmons claimed to have spent 27 years with the CIA, but Paul Nathanson, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, said in a court filing that Simmons “never had any association whatsoever with the CIA.” Instead, prosecutors say Simmons spent those 27 years doing just about everything else: He ran a limousine service, a gambling operation and an AIDS-testing clinic; worked for a hot-tub business, a carpeting company and a nightclub; and briefly played defensive back for the New Orleans Saints. Along the way, he accrued criminal convictions, including multiple DUIs, plus charges for weapons possession and assault, and an arrest for attacking a cabdriver in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2007.
The Justice Department reported that Simmons “admitted he defrauded the government in 2008 when he obtained work as a team leader in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program” and had been deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as an intelligence analyst to senior military personnel after falsifying his credentials. He also had a $1.1 million delinquent tax bill reduced to $430,000 in 2008 by invoking his supposed CIA credentials.
Judge Ellis called Simmons’ claims of a CIA career “buffalo chips” and said that “[i]t’s astonishing to me how many people believed otherwise.”