Va. couple, DC man and NASA employee investigated for COVID-19 fraud schemes

A Virginia couple and a brother, as well as a D.C. man and a NASA employee are among those the IRS investigated for tax and money laundering related to COVID-19 fraud.

Southwest Virginia couple Gregory Tackett and Leelyn Chytka were sentenced to nine years in prison for defrauding the government of almost $500,000, an IRS news release said.

The IRS said they were the ringleaders of a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program fraud scheme that included 35 other people, 15 of which were inmates. Gregory’s brother, Jeffrey Tackett, of Pound, Virginia, was sentenced to more than 8 years in prison for his involvement in January.

D.C. resident Kenneth Gaughan pleaded guilty to taking more than $2.1 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program funds. The IRS said he used a stolen identity and phony service-animal organizations in his scheme. Gaughan used the funds to buy a yacht, a row house in the District and a luxury car, as well as paying off his student loans and making significant payments on a credit card. He is awaiting sentencing.

Senior NASA employee Andrew Tezna, of Leesburg, Virginia, was sentenced last July to 18 months in prison. He submitted a fraudulent application for $350,000 in Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program relief funds, and he also applied for COVID-19-related unemployment for his retired mother-in-law. With the $285,000 he received, he paid off a loan for a pool, a minivan and some credit card debt. He also used the money for down payment on a new car and a dog.

“It’s unfortunate that many criminals thought they could take advantage of a crisis and defraud taxpayers while diverting relief from people who truly needed it,” Darrell Waldon, special agent in charge of the IRS-CI D.C. Field Office, said in a statement.

The office has investigated 84 of the agency’s more than 660 tax and money laundering cases related to COVID-19 fraud, totaling $1.8 billion since the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law nearly two years ago.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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