Appeals Court Upholds Conviction of Belleair Beach Scientists
They were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and falsification of records.
TAMPA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has affirmed the convictions for two Belleair Beach scientists on multiple charges, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Maria Chapa Lopez, said.
The two, Mahmoud Aldissi and his wife, Anastassia Bogomolova, were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and falsification of records.
Accoding to the appeals cout’s opinion, Aldissi and Bogomolova lied about their facilities, equipment, and employees, fabricated price quotes, and forged endorsements from respected scientists to obtain $10.5 million in small-business research funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other government agencies. When government officials began investigating, the defendants submitted falsified business records for their companies, Fractal Systems, Inc. and Smart Polymers Research Corp., to cover up the fraud.
On appeal, the defendants had admitted that their proposals were faked and that, “under the terms of the bid contracts, they were not eligible for any of the contracts or grants for which they applied.” They nonetheless claimed that their convictions should be overturned because they had performed research and published the results in scientific journals.
However, after hearing oral argument, the Court of Appeals rejected all of their arguments, saying, “These are not job programs for unemployed scientists and do not fund research merely for the sake of research.” Because the defendants’ “lies, forgeries, and fabricated price quotes” related to key ingredients for commercialization, their frauds deprived the government of what it actually was paying for and of the money that could have been awarded to other researchers.
The court also affirmed the defendants’ sentences, which were based in part on the $24.5 million that they sought from their fraudulent proposals. Aldissi is serving 15 years in prison, and Bogomolova is serving 13 years in prison. Both have been ordered to repay as restitution the $10.5 million that they obtained from the government.
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