April 23, 2021
Fraud Friday — NASA Senior Executive Pleads Guilty to PPP Loan Fraud
“Despite holding a senior executive position at NASA, the defendant applied for over $350,000 in fraudulent loans and benefits,” says Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “In doing so, he essentially treated COVID-19 relief programs as a personal piggy bank, using funds intended to provide pandemic relief for small businesses and the unemployed to pay down his credit card debt, pay off loans for a residential pool and minivan, and pay a dog-breeder, among other personal expenses.”
On Monday, April 19, 2021, NASA Senior Executive, Andrew Tezna, pleaded guilty to submitting three fraudulent PPP loan applications to Sonabank and Celtic Bank. Each application contained materially false representations about businesses allegedly owned and operated by Tezna’s wife and mother-in-law. On all three applications, Tezna lied about the number of employees the businesses had on payroll and about the intended use of the loan proceeds. As a result of these misrepresentations, Tezna received over $272,000 in PPP funds.
Additionally, Tezna admitted to submitting two fraudulent EIDL requests on behalf of a fake business that he claimed was operated by his wife. The first request claimed that his wife’s business made $157,000 in 2019 and that the business needed $63,000 in EIDL funds to continue to operate. When that application was rejected by the SBA, Tezna tried again, this time claiming the business made $35,000 in 2019. However, the second application was also rejected by the SBA.
Tezna also pleaded guilty to submitting a fraudulent request for unemployment benefits from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). In May 2020, Tezna listed his mother-in-law’s social security number and date of birth on an online application for unemployment benefits. To conceal the fraud from his mother-in-law and the state, Tezna listed his own phone number and email address as the primary contact. This scheme was ultimately successful, and Tezna received 12 VEC unemployment payments in the cumulative amount of $15,950.
Tezna is scheduled to be sentenced on July 16. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.