ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – An employee of the Senior Executive Service (SES) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for filing fraudulent requests for over $ 350,000 in COVID-19 economic aid loans and benefits would have.
"While serving in a senior position at NASA, this defendant used the identity of others to carry out a brazen scheme of taxpayer-funded programs for his own personal gain during the global pandemic," said Raj Parekh, Acting US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "This case is another example of EDVA's commitment to pursuing justice against those who attempt to take advantage of essential programs designed for deserving community members."
According to court documents, Andrew Tezna, 36, of Leesburg, has fraudulently made three loan applications to two financial institutions totaling 272,284 as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a federal initiative designed to help companies pay their employees and cover their basic expenses US dollars represented the COVID-19 pandemic. Tezna also filed two applications with the Small Business Administration for an economic injury loan program totaling $ 69,500 and applied for $ 15,950 COVID-related unemployment benefits from Virginia, allegedly for his retired mother-in-law was and did not qualify for the benefits. In support of the fraudulent PPP loan applications, Tezna filed fake IRS tax returns and fraudulently claimed pay slips that did not exist.
Tezna successfully received over $ 285,000 in PPP loans and unemployment benefits. Most of the money came from PPP loans applied for in his and his mother-in-law's name for non-existent businesses. He then spent the money to pay off a personal loan for a residential pool, a personal loan for a minivan, personal credit card debt, a down payment for a new car, and a dog breeder, among other things. In addition, Tezna also admitted to filing a false Financial Disclosure Report with NASA.
“Tezna made fraudulent representations to raise funds from COVID-19 relief programs designed to help businesses and individuals who have been in trouble due to the pandemic. He stole funds from American taxpayers, which he ultimately used to pay off personal debts and buy luxury goods, ”said special agent Mark J. Zielinski, NASA Office of Inspector General, Eastern Field Office. "Today's condemnation should act as a deterrent to anyone trying to use the system for personal gratification."
“COVID-19 relief programs are not intended to pay out personal indulgences. Despite being in a leadership position, Tezna stole money from the government to help businesses troubled during the pandemic. Today the sentences were passed for his actions, "said Darrell J. Waldon, acting special agent for the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Washington D.C. Field Office.
In addition to her 18 months' imprisonment, Tezna was sentenced to 3 years supervised release and $ 285,449.11 restitution and confiscation.
Raj Parekh, Acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Darrell J. Waldon, acting Special Representative, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-CI; and Mark J. Zielinski, Special Agent in Charge, NASA Office of Inspector General, Eastern Field Office, announced following the conviction by US District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
US assistant attorneys Kimberly M. Shartar and Jamar K. Walker are pursuing the case.
On May 17, 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, led by the Assistant Attorney General, to pool all of the federal government's resources to support fraud enforcement efforts. If you believe you are a victim of COVID-19 related fraud or fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Members of the public in the Eastern District of Virginia are encouraged to call 804-819-5416 or email USAVAE.COVID19@USDOJ.GOV to reach their local Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator.
A copy of this news release is available on the US Attorney's website for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia website or on PACER by searching for Case # 1: 21-cr-77.