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DEA Agent to Pay Government $60,000 for Scamming Agency

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A former federal drug enforcement agent and his wife have agreed to reimburse the government for an expensive job transfer based on false claims the woman had cancer and had to return to Utah for family support.

The DEA spent $47,805 for the 2001 relocation, including more than $21,600 in expenses for the sale of the couple's Houston home, plus $7,680 toward a new house in Utah.

Moving vans and storage cost $8,453. The couple got another $1,860 for "house hunting," according to the agency's accounting. It even paid the tax liability on the perks.

Jeffrey James Clark no longer works for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said Steven K. Sharpe, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Cheyenne, Wyo., who was handed the case by federal prosecutors in Salt Lake City.

Clark and his wife, Tania, do not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the proposed settlement agreement filed in federal court June 13, but agree to reimburse the government $60,000 including interest.

The proposal is awaiting the signature of U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins.

Tania Clark served a month in jail in 2005 for falsely claiming to have bone cancer and soliciting thousands of dollars in charity from neighbors and others in Utah. She was fined, ordered to pay restitution, take medication, get counseling and attend a moral responsibility class.

Sharpe said he was at a loss to explain why the DEA lavished so much money on the Clark's "medical hardship" move. "That was something worked out between the DEA and Mr. Clark," he said.

He said he didn't know if Clark was fired, forced to resign or quit voluntarily.

DEA supervisors in Salt Lake City "won't answer any questions," a secretary said Friday, referring The Associated Press to DEA headquarters where a duty commander said nobody was available to take a call.

The Clarks, who don't have a listed phone number at a West Jordan address, couldn't be reached Friday. Their attorney, Colleen K. Coeberg, didn't return two phone messages.

Court files show Tania Clark's mother and sister, both from Ogden, wrote letters to the DEA recounting her supposed battle with cancer and pleading for the hardship transfer. The mother didn't return a phone message Friday.

Clark was an Ogden police officer before joining the DEA in 1997 in Houston. The agency moved the couple and two children back to Utah in 2001. State prosecutors have said they found no evidence the husband knew of his wife's scam and dropped charges accusing him of aiding the deception.

The federal complaint says Clark attested to his wife's cancer and treatment and supplied the agency with a fabricated letter from a nonexistent doctor backing up her supposed medical condition.

Tania Clark acknowledged to a West Jordan detective Feb. 16, 2005 that she never had cancer and didn't need a bone marrow transplant, according to court records. That came after she told anyone who would listen she was dying of bone cancer and needed $62,000 for a bone marrow transplant. She collected money from neighbors -- some even offered their own bone marrow -- and from fundraisers at her children's school and the Timpanogos Amateur Hockey Association, according to court documents.

Tania Clark's story fell apart after an article about her plight appeared in the South Valley Journal and her sister e-mailed the newspaper, saying she wasn't trustworthy. The story prompted other calls to the newspaper asserting she had attempted other scams in the past.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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