Some 2,240 hours of paid time off were actually donated to Atlanta TSA agent Marc Bess by co-workers, because everyone believed that he was suffering from abdominal cancer. That works out to 280 sick days given to him by sympathetic fellow TSA agents. For five years, he brought doctored doctors’ notes informing his superiors of his cancer and need for specific treatments that would require that he take time off.
As it turns out, Bess was never diagnosed with cancer, and there’s no evidence that he had ever even been treated for cancer. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:
A former TSA agent at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport pleaded guilty to stealing government funds after he faked having abdominal cancer and then took $60,000 in donated leave pay from sympathetic TSA coworkers.
From September 2009 to 2014, Marc Bess, who authorities said has never been diagnosed with or treated for cancer, received about 2,240 hours of donated leave. Government officials said that works out to about $60,000 in salary and benefits. At eight hours a day and 40 hours a week, the 42-year-old Atlantan drew more than a year’s worth of leave pay.
“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.
The Transportation Security Administration offers a voluntary leave transfer program to its employees, which permits them to donate their paid leave hours to coworkers in cases of emergency, authorities said. To be eligible for the leave pay, employees must describe in writing the nature and severity of their medical problem and have the written support of their doctor.
Over the five-year period, Bess submitted three written applications to the TSA falsely claiming that he was receiving treatment for lymphoma cancer in the abdominal area, the government said. He then forged the signature of a physician in his supporting letters which described the radiation therapy and surgical treatments he claimed to need.
Bess was deemed eligible to receive donated leave hours from his coworkers based on the applications.
Then, authorities said, Bess “…made the mistake of faking a doctor’s note from a physician who had died months earlier.”
Bess periodically submitted forged doctor’s notes describing faked cancer treatments in support of his requests for more paid leave hours. But two of the forged letters he submitted were dated several months after the doctor who purportedly signed them died in July 2014.
Bess resigned from the TSA in January 2015 after his fraud was exposed. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court and is scheduled for sentencing on July 24.
I hope part of his sentencing is to pay back at least three times the amount that he stole from his thoughtful co-workers.
It’s this kind of stuff that makes people cautious about helping another person. It’s like helping a person out who’s on the side of the road with a broken down car, only to find out that the person is a crook who was looking for the first sympathetic driver to victimize. That driver, if he survives the ordeal, will probably never again pull over on the side of the road to help someone, no matter how helpless he or she looks. And if it’s broadcast on the nightly news, people who watch will be wary of helping anyone as well.
It’s amazing to me that Bess got away with this for so long. Maybe he doesn’t have any close enough friends or family to worry about telling the truth to anyone else. Or, perhaps he does have a close friend or family member to whom he lied.
But that seems unlikely, considering it lasted for five years. What finally brought him down wasn’t a friend or relative spilling the beans. It was the fact that he forged a dead doctor’s signature.