Former TSA Security Officer Pleads Guilty to Faking Cancer to Receive Paid Government Leave


Atlanta, GA ( - Marc Bess, a former transportation security officer with the Transportation Security Administration, has pleaded guilty to theft of government funds after he faked an abdominal cancer diagnosis and forged doctor's notes in order to receive donated leave hours from his TSA coworkers.

“Bess deceived his coworkers, who donated their own paid vacation time out of concern for their colleague, so he could take time off from work at the public's expense,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn. “He made the mistake of faking a doctor's note from a physician who had died months earlier. His repeated lies over five years betrayed not only his coworkers but also the passengers he was charged with protecting.”

“Mr. Bess' thoughtless actions to defraud his fellow employees was indeed despicable; he betrayed the general trust of many compassionate TSA employees, who were willing to donate their hard-earned leave in support of a fellow employee,” said James E. Ward, Special Agent in Charge, DHS - Office of Inspector General.   “We are pleased with Mr. Bess' guilty plea, and the acknowledgment that he will be held responsible for his treachery.”

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: The TSA offers a Voluntary Leave Transfer Program to its employees, which permits them to donate paid leave hours to other employees in cases of emergency. In order to be eligible to receive donated leave hours through this program, employees must submit a written application describing the nature and severity of their medical emergency with supporting documentation from the treating physician.

Bess was a TSA employee at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Between September 2009 and January 2014, Bess submitted three written applications to the TSA falsely claiming that he was receiving treatment for lymphoma cancer in the abdominal area. In support of these applications, Bess forged the signature of a physician in letters he drafted that described phony radiation therapy and surgical treatments for the fake cancer diagnosis. Based on these false applications, Bess became eligible to receive donated leave hours from coworkers. In reality, Bess has never been diagnosed with or treated for cancer.

Bess also submitted periodic forged physician's notes to the TSA from 2009 through December 2014 describing fake cancer treatments in support of his requests for additional paid leave hours. Two of the forged letters that were purportedly written by the physician were dated several months after the physician died in July 2014.

In total, Bess received approximately 2240 hours of paid leave hours donated by other federal employees over a five-year span based on his false claim of cancer. Based on these donated hours, the TSA paid Bess approximately $60,000 in salary and benefits while he took time off from work. Bess resigned from the TSA in January 2015 after his fraud was exposed.

Bess, 42, of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Mark H. Cohen. Sentencing for Bess is scheduled for July 24, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.

This case is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General.

Assistant United States Attorney Nathan P. Kitchens is prosecuting the case.

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