Ex-senior NASA employee gets 18 months for pandemic fraud

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former senior NASA employee who cheated the government out of nearly $275,000 in pandemic-related financial assistance has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The sentence imposed Thursday on Andrew Tezna, 36, of Leesburg, Virginia, was roughly in line with the 21-month sentence sought by federal prosecutors in Alexandria. Tezna’s lawyer had asked for a sentence of home detention.

Tezna pleaded guilty to fraud after submitting bogus applications under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. He concocted businesses in his own name and that of his mother-in-law, and grossly inflated the scope of a side business owned by his wife.

He also falsely filed for unemployment benefits on behalf of his mother-in-law, who was retired.

During the fraud, Tezna was making more than $180,000 annually working in NASA’s financial offices. He used the money to pay off a swimming pool, credit cards, and a Disney timeshare. He also paid more than $6,000 to a dog breeder for a French bulldog.

In all, Tezna admitted to applying for more than $350,000 in benefits and receiving more than $270,000.

Tezna’s lawyer said in court papers that Tezna lost his NASA job and is now earning $14 a hour at a home-improvement store.

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