An engineering professor at Lehigh University and his wife were convicted of defrauding NASA by letting graduate students and researchers do all the work on a $700,000 project, the Associated Press reported. Yujie Ding and his wife, Yulia Zotova, reportedly obtained federal grants to develop a climate change sensor. But Zotova, who was supposed to oversee the project in her husband’s Lehigh laboratory, reportedly never came to work. Prosecutors said the sensor start-up was merely a front through which to seek grants, and that Ding didn’t disclose his role in the company to Lehigh.
Zotova, who is a physicist, argued in court that social anxiety prevented her from visiting the lab, and that she worked on the project from home. The couple’s attorneys also said that NASA ultimately got the prototype single-photon detector it had paid them to develop, The Morning Call reported. But a jury convicted Ding and Zotova on six of 10 fraud counts, based on the belief that they missed opportunities to inform NASA of Zotova’s changing role in the project, according to the Call. They each face up to 20 years in prison.
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