Ex-NASA Official Pleads Guilty to Lying About Contractor Moonlighting

Justice says Goddard Center engineer worked with friend’s firm, steered work and sought job.

A former contract supervisor at NASA pleaded guilty to making false statements about his self-interested interactions with contractors, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

Nathaniel Wright, 55, who worked full-time in the space agency’s software engineering division at the Goddard Space Flight Center, acknowledged to a Maryland district judge that he moonlighted as a contract employee for a friend’s small business that did work for several agencies. Wright also helped that business submit contract bids to other agencies during the period of 2009 through 2012 when his NASA responsibilities included work on an $800 million contract, a $450 million contract and a $1.2 billion contract.

According to the plea deal based on the NASA inspector general’s investigation, Wright admitted that he provided his resume to one of the contractors and said that he was looking for a position with their company. He “suggested that he would wait to consider the contractor’s proposals until a position had been considered,” a Justice statement said. “Wright also admitted that he pressed a contractor to use his friend’s business to perform work on a specific task order, even though that businesses had no experience in the area.” 

Wright acknowledged that he pressed additional contractors on a separate contract to direct work to his friend’s business. And at an October 2012 meeting, he instructed a contractor to include his friend’s business in a task order proposal and suggested that they include a document to justify the business’s involvement, even though the business had no expertise in the type of work called for under the contract.”

Finally, Wright later admitted that he made false statements concerning his actions to the IG investigators. He is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Justice credited its staff who handled the case: Trial Attorney Victor Salgado of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan of the District of Maryland, along with Chief Kevin Driscoll of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture Money Laundering Section Policy Unit.

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