NASA employee convicted of COVID-19 loan fraud | Securities
A senior NASA official was sentenced last week to 18 months in prison for submitting fraudulent claims for more than $ 350,000 in loans and economic benefits related to COVID-19.
“While in a high-ranking position at NASA, this defendant used the identity of others to implement a brazen scheme in which he exploited taxpayer-funded programs during the global pandemic to his advantage. staff, ”said Raj Parekh, Acting US. District attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a press release.
According to court documents, Andrew Tezna, 36, of Leesburg, fraudulently submitted three loan applications to two financial institutions for a total of $ 272,284, under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a federal initiative designed to help businesses to pay their employees and cover their basic expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tezna also submitted two economic disaster loan program applications to the Small Business Administration for a total of $ 69,500, and he applied for COVID-related unemployment benefits, totaling $ 15,950, from Virginia, apparently for his stepmother, who was retired and was not eligible. for the benefits. In support of the fraudulent PPP loan applications, Tezna submitted fabricated IRS tax returns and fraudulently claimed salary expenses that did not exist, the statement said.
Tezna managed to secure over $ 285,000 in PPP loans and unemployment benefits. Most of the money came from PPP loans requested on behalf of him and his mother-in-law for businesses that didn’t exist, federal officials said.
He then spent the funds, among other things, to pay off a personal loan for a residential swimming pool, a personal loan for a van, personally incurred credit card debt, a down payment for a new car and a dog breeder. Additionally, Tezna also admitted to filing a false financial disclosure report with NASA.
“Tezna made fraudulent representations to obtain funds from COVID-19 relief programs designed to help businesses and individuals who were struggling due to the pandemic. In doing so, he stole funds from American taxpayers that he ultimately used to pay off personal debts and buy luxury items, ”said Special Agent in Charge Mark J. Zielinski of the Inspector General’s office. from NASA, Eastern Field Office. “Today’s conviction should have a chilling effect on anyone who tries to play with the system for personal gratification.”
In addition to the 18 months in jail, Tezna was sentenced to three years of supervised release and $ 285,449.11 in restitution and forfeiture.
Raj Parekh, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Darrell J. Waldon, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Washington, DC Field Office, IRS-CI; and Mark J. Zielinski, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of the Inspector General of NASA, Eastern Regional Office, made the announcement following the conviction by US District Senior Judge Claude M. Hilton.
US Deputy Prosecutors Kimberly M. Shartar and Jamar K. Walker continued the case.
On May 17, 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force, led by the Deputy Attorney General, to bring together all of the federal government’s resources to strengthen efforts to combat fraud.
If you believe you have been the victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or email disaster @ leo. gov. Members of the public in the Eastern District of Virginia are encouraged to call 804-819-5416 or email [email protected] to contact their local Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator.