A senior NASA employee has plead guilty to bank fraud after applying for over $350,000 in COVID-19-related relief. On Monday, NASA Senior Executive Service employee Andrew Tezna pleaded guilty to submitting fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Economic Injury Disaster loans, and COVID-19 unemployment benefits for his retired mother-in-law.
“Despite holding a senior executive position at NASA, the defendant applied for over $350,000 in fraudulent loans and benefits,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh said in a press release. “In doing so, he essentially treated COVID-19 relief programs as a personal piggy bank, using funds intended to provide pandemic relief for small businesses and the unemployed to pay down his credit card debt, pay off loans for a residential pool and minivan, and pay a dog-breeder, among other personal expenses.”
The press release states that Tezna submitted three PPP loan applications worth $272,284 in his own name and his mother-in-law’s name for fake businesses. He submitted fake IRS tax returns to support his applications. He submitted two applications worth $69,500 to the Small Business Administration for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. He also applied for $15,950 in Virginia unemployment benefits for his mother-in-law, who did not qualify. According to the release, he received over $285,000 from PPP loans and unemployment benefits.
“He then spent the funds, among other things, to pay off a personal loan for a residential pool, to pay off a personal loan for a minivan, to pay off personally incurred credit card debt, for a down payment on a new car, and to pay a dog-breeder. In addition, Tezna also admitted to filing a false Financial Disclosure Report with NASA,” the press release states.
According to the Office of Personnel Management, Senior Executive Services employees have a base yearly salary of $132,552.
Tezna will be sentenced on July 16; he faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, although sentences are usually less than the maximum.
NASA Office of Inspector General, Eastern Field Office Special Agent in Charge Mark Zielinski said, “As a NASA senior executive, the Agency placed a great deal of trust in Tezna. Taking advantage of the CARES Act to fraudulently obtain PPP loans not only violated the Agency’s trust, but the trust of American people that sought assistance for the legitimate needs of their struggling businesses.”
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