A Fox News Channel commentator was arrested on federal charges of fraud Thursday for claiming to have worked as a CIA agent for decades -- a lie that was often repeated on air at the conservative news channel, news reports said. Wayne Simmons, 62, started appearing on Fox News Channel in 2002 and portrayed himself as an "outside paramilitary special operations officer."
He now faces charges of making false statements, major fraud against the U.S. and wire fraud, according to a grand jury indictment. If convicted, he could spend up to 20 years in prison.
In appearances on Fox News Channel, Simmons would use his supposed former CIA position to bolster claims about Muslim militants in America, the New York Daily News reported. Fox News said its relationship with him was limited. “He was a guest only and had never been paid” for any appearances, a Fox News spokeswoman told the Daily News.
Simmons falsely claimed that he worked on terrorism and drug cartel investigations for the CIA from 1973 to 2000, according to an FBI statement. He reportedly used his bogus career history to land government contracting jobs overseas and claimed on national security forms that his record of arrests and criminal convictions were connected to CIA work. A novel that he co-wrote about a former CIA operative includes an author bio identifying him as a former CIA operative.
A website purportedly belonging to him makes a series of other claims: It says he was one of the first outside intelligence officers to visit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2005 and served as a consultant to President George W. Bush's White House on the drafting of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. It also claims he's a member of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi.
Simmons faces charges as well for scamming an individual out of $125,000 for a sham real estate deal and then using the cash for personal business, the FBI said.