Bahai Professor, Wife Accused of Defrauding NASA of Hundreds of Thousands of Taxpayer Dollars
July 22, 2013 1 Comment
A University of Florida nuclear engineering professor and his family members had their property seized Wednesday in an investigation into allegations they used money from NASA contracts to buy multiple cars and homes.
Samim Anghaie is a Iranian-born professor who directs an institute that researches the use of nuclear power in space. He and his wife, Sousan, run a Gainesville-based company, New Era Technology, that conducts research for NASA. As of Wednesday, neither Anghaie nor his wife had been arrested, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tallahassee said.
UF suspended Samim Anghaie after the FBI searched his campus office Wednesday. A warrant alleges money from NASA was diverted from New Era into the accounts of Samim, Sousan and their sons, Ali and Hamid.
The alleged scheme “diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegally obtained government funds from their corporate bank account to their personal bank accounts,” according to the warrant.
Since December 1999, New Era was awarded 13 government contracts with NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Department of Energy. The agencies deposited nearly $3.4 million into the company’s account, according to the warrant.
The money was allegedly used to buy six vehicles ranging from a 2005 Toyota Sienna to 2009 Subaru and homes in Gainesville, Connecticut, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. Some money was used to buy stocks and the proceeds to buy land in Alachua County, the warrant alleges.
The warrants allowed agents with the FBI and NASA to seize the vehicles, properties and family’s multiple bank accounts. Tallahassee-based assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rhew said no arrests were made but declined to discuss the case.
“What we can say about an ongoing investigation is very limited,” she said.
UF spokesman Steve Orlando said Anghaie was suspended with pay pending the results of the case.
“We’re cooperating with their investigation,” Orlando said.
Samim Anghaie, 59, is director of UF’s Innovative Nuclear Space Power and Propulsion Institute. A search of his office in the UF Nuclear Science Building started around 8 a.m. and lasted until mid-afternoon.
Anghaie started at UF as a researcher in 1980 and has worked for the university since that time, except for a stint at Oregon State University from 1984 to 1986. He currently makes about $111,400 a year from UF.
A UF news release from 1997 said he worked on developing fuels to carry a manned mission more quickly to Mars. A spokeswoman for NASA’s inspector general declined comment on the case.
As members of the Baha’i faith, Samim and Sousan Anghaie applied for asylum in the U.S. on the basis of Iran’s persecution of members of the religion, according to immigration documents. He is currently listed as a resident alien.
Sousan Anghaie, 54, is president of New Era Technology. The warrant alleges that she intentionally misrepresented budget information on NASA contracts and submitted multiple false invoices for workers.
Hamid Anghaie, 28, graduated from UF and is now a family wealth planning senior associate in Tampa. Ali Anghaie, 31, lives in Connecticut and works in information technology security for a space propulsion company.