Federal prosecutors in Virginia are preparing to file a criminal charge against a former NASA subcontractor suspected of fraud and linked to the failed 2011 launch of the NASA Glory spacecraft.
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia has yet to publicly post the complaint. Justice Department court filings show an employee of the contractor has already admitted being part of a fraud scheme in a separate case.
The unspecified criminal charge against Hydro Extrusions, formerly known as Sapa, will be filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The U.S. attorney declined to comment on the case.
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An internal NASA memo said the agency’s internal inspectors investigated Sapa in 2015 for altering “test results” performed on the company’s aluminium extrusions. According to the U.S. Justice Department, a company supervisor admitted to a fraud scheme in 2017 in a separate criminal case in Oregon.
The Justice Department said the employee doctored test results “to ensure the company’s unreliable and inconsistent production practices would not prevent aluminum extrusions from being shipped to customers.”
The Justice Department said by doing so, the former Sapa employee and lab technicians “altered the mechanical properties of aluminum extrusions over 4,000 times, allowing the manufacturing company to gross over $6.8 million in total sales based on altered test results.”
According to the Justice Department, “Aluminum extrusions are manufactured for a variety of applications, including aeronautic uses such as rockets.”
Sapa worked as an aluminium subcontractor for NASA beginning in the 1990s, according to multiple reports.
The internal NASA memo did not specify whether fraud by Sapa contributed to the failure of the 2011 Nasa Glory spacecraft launch. But the memo said “fraud” was a suspected cause of the doomed mission.
NASA did not immediately return requests for comment.
“Upon learning of the misconduct, we immediately stopped it and reported the details to government officials," said a spokesman for Hydro Extrusions in a statement to the News4 I-Team. "Over the past several years we have undertaken aggressive remediation actions and have invested significant time and resources to completely overhaul our quality and compliance organizations. This includes the implementation of more than $14 million in state-of-the-art testing equipment across our North American operations that automates the tensile testing process.”