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Ex-TSA Agent Charged With Faking Cancer to Take Time Off

Marc Bess Sr. faked cancer for five years until he got sloppy and continued submitting paperwork from a doctor who'd died, prosecutors say.
/ Source: NBC News

A former agent of the Transportation Security Administration is free on bond on charges that he faked having cancer to take advantage of more than a year's worth of sick leave donated by federal employees, according to federal court documents.

The alleged scam by Marc Bess Sr., 42, of Riverdale, Ga., south of Atlanta, went on for more than five years — until he got sloppy last year and continued submitting paperwork from a doctor who'd unfortunately died several months earlier, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

Besides the letters from the unidentified doctor — who never treated Bess, who never had cancer, prosecutors said — Bess even scheduled a fake operation to persuade supervisors to give him time off, according to the complaint. He is due in court May 11 for a plea hearing on charges of embezzlement and theft of public money.

The program Bess is accused of having manipulated is the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program, under which federal employees can donate unused sick leave to colleagues who need extra time off for especially serious conditions.

Beginning in 2009, according to the complaint, Bess began submitting letters from the unidentified physician to substantiate that he was suffering from abdominal lymphoma, a relatively common form of cancer, and that he needed weekly radiation treatment.

In fact, "contrary to the form submitted to the federal government, Marc Bess did not have lymphoma cancer, nor did he receive any radiation therapy for tumors in his abdominal area," prosecutors said.

Bess "drafted the entire Verification of Treatment letter, including the false diagnosis of cancer, from a template on his home computer, and he forged Physician A's signature on the letter," according to the complaint.

'Contrary to the form submitted to the federal government, Marc Bess did not have lymphoma cancer.'

Bess wasn't caught until sometime after Dec. 5 of last year, when he submitted more forms from the doctor reporting that he still needed weekly treatment on Fridays.

"But Physician A died in or about July 2014, several months before Bess submitted these forged letters to the TSA," prosecutors said.

From autumn 2009 to late 2014, Bess accumulated 2,240 hours of paid leave — often on Fridays — donated by his fellow federal workers, the government said. That's 280 days, or 56 five-day work weeks.

Bess didn't answer a call seeking comment, and the public defender's office, which is listed in court documents as representing him, was closed Thursday night.

In a statement, the TSA didn't specifically address the charges against Bess, but it said it had "zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace."