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Fox News guest analyst charged with fraud

Cable news pundit Wayne Simmons, known for his commentary on terrorism and security issues, lied about working for the CIA according to US prosecutors. Simmons also claimed to have had "top secret" security clearance.

Authorities arrested the 62-year-old Simmons on Thursday and charged him with multiple counts of fraud.

According to prosecutors, he falsely claimed to have worked for the CIA from 1973 to 2000 as an "outside paramilitary special operations officer."

Simmons has repeatedly appeared on Fox News as a guest terrorism analyst, using his alleged career with the CIA to provide commentary on national security. He also claimed to have been a "deep cover" agent for US clandestine operations and to have had "top secret" security clearance.

The Maryland resident first appeared on the cable network in 2002, and was identified as a "Fox News contributor" on Fox radio as recently as April this year.

However, Fox News spokeswoman Carly Shanahan said Simmons was merely a guest and that the "contributor" reference was an error.

"He was never a paid commentator," she said.

Simmons is also a co-author of the thriller "The Natanz Directive."

False pretenses

Prosecutors believe that Simmons entered bogus claims on national security forms, trying to use his alleged CIA career to obtain security licenses and work as a defense contractor.

At one point Simmons was deployed overseas as an intelligence adviser to US military personnel, and worked for three government contractors based on "materially false and fraudulent pretenses."

The indictment also claims he defrauded a victim out of about $125,000 (about 110,000 euros) in a bogus real estate investment.

In a statement, the CIA said it was working closely with the Justice Department on the case. If convicted, Simmons could face up to 20 years in prison. The government is also seeking a restitution of $175,000 (154,000 euros).

dj/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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