Oct 26, 2015

Supposed CIA agent, who addressed local tea party in August, alleged to be a fraud

Wayne Simmons convinced the federal government, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, local tea party supporters and media outlets across the country — including this publication — that he’d spent 27 years fighting drug traffickers and terrorists as an undercover operative for the CIA.

Federal prosecutors now say that’s a lie.

Wayne Simmons, addressing local tea partyers in Emblem in August. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
Simmons, who was one of the keynote speakers at August’s Big Horn Basin TEA Party Picnic in Emblem, was arrested at his home in Maryland on Oct. 15 and charged with allegations of fraud in Virginia.

“My jaw is still on the floor,” Big Horn Basin TEA Party organizer Rob DiLorenzo said in an Oct. 19 interview, calling himself “mystified.”

The pending charges against Simmons allege he lied about being a former CIA officer to win jobs with military contractors and to help defraud a Virginia resident out of tens of thousands of dollars.

The indictment alleges that — to get two military contracting jobs between 2008 and 2010 — Simmons told the companies and the U.S. government he’d worked as a top secret “outside paramilitary special officer” for the CIA from 1973 to 2000. Court filings from prosecutors indicate the federal government accepted Simmons’ claims, issued him secret security clearances and even deployed him to Afghanistan in 2010 as an intelligence adviser to senior U.S. military officials.

However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia now says it has discovered that Simmons is not actually a former CIA agent. Further, prosecutors say Simmons has a criminal past, including DWUI charges and felonies, that he either didn’t disclose or claimed were related to his CIA service.

Beyond fooling the government, prosecutors say that in 2011, Simmons used his purported CIA ties to help convince a Virginia resident to give him $125,000 for some supposed real estate projects. The indictment alleges Simmons actually used the money “for personal purposes.”

All told, Simmons faces seven felony counts, including two counts of major fraud against the United States. Last week, a federal magistrate in Virginia ordered Simmons to be held in jail while the case is pending. He pleaded not guilty on Friday.

It was an abrupt turnaround for a man who’s made dozens of appearances on Fox News programs as a conservative terrorism expert — and who was treated as a VIP at the tea party picnic two months ago.

DiLorenzo, who’s known Simmons for years and had dinner with him just a few weeks ago, said last week that he doesn't have an opinion to offer about the allegations as of yet, “because all I've heard is one side of the story.”

He's hoping Simmons will call and explain what's going on.

“My gut feeling tells me there's something else happening,” DiLorenzo told the Tribune of the charges. “I mean, it may be political.”

Simmons — who also spoke at the 2013 TEA Party Picnic — was introduced by DiLorenzo this year as a man who “knows everything about everything,” with DiLorenzo joking that his wife calls Simmons “the American James Bond.”

Simmons has given silver screen-caliber accounts of the dangers he faced while working undercover to track “hundreds” of drug traffickers, terrorists and their associates.

He had explained in a June 2008 column for the conservative publication “Human Events” that “No one, with the exception of those at the very highest levels, even knew of my Special Operations Group, much less that I was a part of it.”

Simmons described a supposed incident in 1980 where traffickers handcuffed him to a small wooden chair and knocked him to the concrete floor.

“With a nod, the narco-terrorist interrogating me signaled to his henchmen to sit me back in the upright position and ready me for another punch,” Simmons wrote in a May 2009 column for Human Events.

Simmons later wrote a fictional thriller about “a former operative in the CIA’s most clandestine division” who helps “prevent Armageddon in the Middle East.”

Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld tweeted an endorsement of the book in 2012.

“Wayne Simmons doesn't just write it. He's lived it,” says a blurb for the novel attributed to Rumsfeld, who’s described Simmons as a friend.

In Emblem this summer, Simmons said he’d taken three trips to Guantanamo Bay during President George W. Bush’s administration and went “personally for Secretary Rumsfeld to observe the detainees and enemy combatants.”

Simmons’ lengthy speech in Emblem was a wonky, conservative-flavored rundown of international affairs. He generally made a case that President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has weakened America. That included faulting the Obama administration’s actions in Benghazi, Libya, leading up to the 2012 attack on the U.S.’s diplomatic compound and suggesting the Democratic president’s actions in Libya have been aimed at setting up an Islamic “caliphate” in the Middle East. He also described Obama as “a communist, socialist, Muslim.”

Simmons’ strong, public opinions have included calling on then-CIA director Leon Panetta to resign in 2010, asserting in a column for Human Events that Panetta “was not ... and is not now an intelligence professional” and that he didn’t have the credentials for the job.

During August's Big Horn Basin TEA Party picnic, Simmons (at right) jumped in to help answer a question directed to Rev. Rafael Cruz. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
A couple of Simmons’ friends told the Washington Post last week they wonder if evidence will emerge Simmons actually did actually perform some kind of secret work for the government.

“The CIA is such an underground organization in many respects (that) we don’t know what the hell is going on,” DiLorenzo told the Tribune.

The Washington Post quoted Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Nathanson as saying in federal court last week that Simmons is “always using this supposed CIA affiliation as a trump card” and “frankly, it often works.”

Meanwhile, the conservative group Accuracy in Media has scrubbed all online references to the role Simmons has played in its unofficial investigation into the Benghazi attack; “Human Events” has removed all of Simmons’ columns from its website.

Last week’s indictment does not explain how the government became suspicious of Simmons. His attorney in Virginia — appointed by the court because he lacked the means to hire a private one — said Tuesday that the federal investigation had spanned two years.

The Washington Times reported that former CIA officer Kent Clizbe and another government worker were suspicious of Simmons’ credentials back in 2013. When questioned then by the Times, Simmons reportedly said he'd been vetted by the Department of Defense (DoD) and had files proving his story.

“Please note. I’m listed as CIA. DoD did the vetting,” Simmons reportedly told the Times in a 2013 email that the site published Sunday. “I did not just miraculously show up at GITMO (Guantanamo Bay) 3 times to assess the terrorists.”

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