NASA executive convicted of fraud for using nearly $ 300,000 in COVID relief to pay for $ 6,450 French bulldog, swimming pool and Disney membership


Andrew Tezna held a senior position at NASA. Rafael Henrique / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

  • A NASA executive has been sentenced to 18 months for filing fraudulent documents for COVID-19 relief.

  • Andrew Tezna used the $ 285,000 he received to purchase a French Bulldog and a Disney membership.

  • A US lawyer said Tezna was using COVID-19 relief programs as “a personal piggy bank”.

  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

A senior NASA executive who received $ 285,000 in COVID-19 relief to fund lavish spending was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday.

The Justice Department said Andrew Tezna, 36, of Leesburg, Va., Has requested more than $ 350,000 in COVID-19 relief from Virginia’s Paycheck and Unemployment Protection Program.

He paid a dog breeder $ 6,450 for a French bulldog, prosecutors said. He also paid $ 18,447 for a loan on a Toyota Sienna and $ 4,992.81 for a loan for a Land Rover. He spent $ 2,500 on the Disney Vacation Club and paid off $ 140,000 in personal debt, including $ 48,961.81 for a loan for a swimming pool, prosecutors said.

When Tezna pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in April, Raj Parekh, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said the NASA executive had used the COVID-19 relief programs of the government as “a personal piggy bank”.

The government said Tezna submitted three PPP loan applications to banks, totaling $ 272,284. He submitted two more claims to the Small Business Administration for $ 69,500. And he asked for $ 15,950 in COVID-related unemployment in Virginia.

He also filed a false financial disclosure report with NASA, where he worked in the Senior Executive Service. His annual salary was $ 170,801, according to court documents.

Tenza used the name Andalasia Designs for its PPP applications, according to court documents. He said the company had three employees, with an average monthly payroll of $ 34,700, according to prosecutors. The company did not have a monthly payroll, they said.

He also used his mother-in-law’s name and Social Security number, according to the Justice Department. He allegedly claimed that she had been fired from her nanny position.

“While in a high-ranking position at NASA, this defendant used the identities of others to implement a brazen scheme in which he exploited taxpayer-funded programs during the global pandemic at his personal benefit, ”Parekh said Thursday in a statement.

U.S. attorneys on Thursday filed documents to recover $ 285,449.11 from Tezna.

When federal law enforcement officials questioned Tezna at his home in December, he told them he would sell the house to pay off the loans, according to a pre-sentence report.

But when he sold the house in January, he instead used the money to buy a new home in Florida.

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