Thursday, July 29

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


  • A NASA executive was sentenced to 18 months for filing fraudulent paperwork for COVID-19 relief.
  • Andrew Tezna used the more than $285,000 he received on a French bulldog and a Disney membership.
  • A US attorney said Tezna used COVID-19 relief programs as “a personal piggy bank.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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

The Justice Department said Andrew Tezna, 36, of Leesburg, Virginia, applied for more than $350,000 in COVID-19 relief from the Paycheck Protection Program and Virginia unemployment.

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

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

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

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

Tenza used the name Andalasia Designs for his 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 was said to have claimed she was laid off from her position as a nanny.

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

US attorneys on Thursday filed paperwork seeking to recover $285,449.11 from Tezna.

When federal law enforcement officials interviewed Tezna at his home in December, he told them he’d sell the house to repay the loans, according to a pre-sentencing report.

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



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