An affidavit suggests the contractors stole federal tax dollars through fraudulent contracts and laundered the money.
Federal agents on Wednesday said they're investigating NASA contractors in connection with a fraud and money-laundering scheme.
No charges have been filed, but the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tallahassee, Fla., said search warrants were issued for the University of Florida's Innovative Nuclear Space Power and Propulsion Institute. A university spokesperson said that FBI agents went to the office of radiological engineering professor Samim Anghaie, a native of Iran who runs the institute.
Investigators filed an affidavit last week stating that there's reason to believe the contractors stole federal tax dollars through fraudulent contracts and laundered the money through a family business.
The affidavit identified Anghaie and his wife, Sousan, as targets of the investigation and said they received 13 federal government contracts valued at more than $3 million since 1999. The document said the pair used $528,000 worth of NASA funds to buy a home, four vehicles, and other property for themselves, their sons, and another relative. It was unclear whether any of the contract work was done.
The pair reportedly received contracts through their company, New Era Technology, which was founded in 1988. One of the projects was to develop fuel for a nuclear thermal-propulsion rocket.
The affidavit states that New Era Technology, also known as Netech, operates out of the couple's Gainesville, Fla., home and performs research for NASA and the Department of Defense. Court documents show that one of the couple's sons, Hamid Anghaie, was listed as director and VP, while Sousan Anghaie was listed as its president. The affidavit said that Hamid Anghaie and his brother Ali received some of the money as illegitimate employees.
The university is cooperating with the investigation and said that Anghaie is on administrative leave with pay. None of the family members has been charged and no arrest warrants have been issued.