Ex-NASA scientist, MIT grad gets 13 years in prison for espionage, fraud

Stewart Nozette defrauded the Navy Research Lab, DARPA and NASA

Ex-NASA worker, planetary scientist and physicist, Stewart Nozette was today sentenced to 13 years in prison for attempted espionage, conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax evasion.

According to the Department of Justice the sentence covered charges in two cases.   In the first, Nozette pleaded guilty in September 2011 to attempted espionage for providing classified information to a person he believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer.   In the other, he pleaded guilty in January 2009 to fraud and tax charges stemming from more than $265,000 in false claims he submitted to the government.

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In addition to the prison term, Nozette is expected to pay more than $217,000 in restitution to the government agencies he defrauded.

FBI agents arrested Nozette on Oct. 19, 2009, after an undercover operation in which he provided classified materials on three occasions.  He was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury and pleaded guilty to one of these charges.   The charges did not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under US laws in this case, the DoJ stated.

Some of the classified information Nozette is said to have passed to the FBI agents included data directly concerned satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information, and major elements of defense strategy, the DoJ stated.  

According to the DoJ, Nozette had an impressive resume that included:

  • § A Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983
  • § A stint at the White House on the National Space Council, Executive Office of the President, from approximately 1989 through 1990.
  • § A stint as a physicist for the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from approximately 1990 to 1999, where he designed highly advanced technology.
  • § Assisted in the development of the Clementine bi-static radar experiment which purportedly discovered water ice on the south pole of the moon. A version of the Clementine satellite currently hangs on display at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and was later hailed as the vanguard of the new "faster, cheaper, better" revolution in space exploration.
  • § President, treasurer and director of the Alliance for Competitive Technology (ACT), a non-profit organization that he organized in March 1990. Between January 2000 and February 2006, Nozette, through his company, ACT, entered into agreements with several government agencies to develop highly advanced technology. Nozette performed some of this research and development at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Va., and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
  • § In connection with the fraud and tax case, Nozette admitted that, from 2000 through 2006, he used ACT to defraud the NRL, DARPA and NASA by making and presenting more than $265,000 in fraudulent reimbursement claims, most of which were paid. He also admitted that, from 2001 through 2005, he willfully evaded more than $200,000 in federal taxes. In addition, he admitted using ACT, an entity exempt from taxation because of its non-profit status, to receive income and to pay personal expenses, such as mortgages, automobile loans, sedan services and other items.
  • § From 1989 through 2006, Nozette held security clearances as high as TOP SECRET and had regular, frequent access to classified information and documents related to the national defense of the United States. The factual proffer also provides details about the undercover operation that led to Nozette's arrest.

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