A NASA-JPL employee admitted to misusing COVID support funds for cannabis cultivation and personal debts. He now faces a potential 20-years in federal prison after using $151,900 from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Widespread misuse of pandemic support funds led to the creation of a Task Force in May 2021; many cases involved funds being spent on luxury items like sports cars.
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) employee admitted to using funds meant for supporting small businesses during the COVID pandemic for illegal cannabis cultivation.
A NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) employee confessed to fraud in a government loan program established during the COVID-19 pandemic. He admitted that a portion of the funds was used to finance an illegal cannabis operation – the U.S. Department of Justice reported on July 24th.
For more news like this, download our free cannabis news app.
Charges and Admission
“Armen Hovanesian, a 32-year-old from Glendale, a cost control and budget planning analyst at JPL, a government research and development center funded by the California Institute of Technology for NASA, admitted to the fraud charge,” wrote the Department of Justice. “The information and plea agreement were filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court. Hovanesian is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on August 11.”
Fraudulent Loan Applications
According to the information provided by the Department of Justice, from June 2020 to October 2020, Hovanesian applied for three loans from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, an administered program that offered low-interest financing for small businesses, renters, and homeowners, specifically for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hovanesian admitted to making false statements in loan applications regarding the gross revenue each business generated the previous year and false statements about his intended use of the loan funds.”
The Small Business Administration (SBA) mandates—under penalty of perjury—that beneficiaries “use the full amount” of the loans they applied for “solely as working capital to mitigate economic damage” in accordance with the terms and limitations of the EIDL program.
However, instead of using the funds to support his businesses during COVID, the NASA employee used the funds for personal gain, settling personal real estate debts and financing his illegal cannabis cultivation.
Legal Consequences for NASA Employee
The Department of Justice stated that Hovanesian used the SBA to transmit via interstate wires funds from EIDL totaling $151,900.
The punishment is severe: After pleading guilty, Hovanesian faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Misuse of Pandemic Support Funds
Misuse of pandemic support funds was rampant. To address this issue, the U.S. Attorney General established a Task Force to Combat COVID-19-related Frauds in May 2021.
Pandemic support programs, such as the SBA financing and the Paycheck Protection Program, were often misused.
NBC News reported that pandemic support funds were used to purchase Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Teslas, and Bentleys. The NASA Employees’ misuse of the funds is just the latest in this series of cases.
The Inspector General of the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, overseeing pandemic support expenditure, told NBC’s Lester Holt that pandemic support programs were structured in a way that made them especially easy to exploit, with many businessmen caught buying expensive sports cars and other luxury goods with the money.
DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a third-party contributor and does not reflect the opinion of Hemp.im, its management, staff, or its associates. Please review our disclaimer for more information.
This article may include forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words “believe,” “project,” “estimate,” “become,” “plan,” “will,” and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks as well as uncertainties, including those discussed in the following cautionary statements and elsewhere in this article and on this site. Although the company may believe that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, the actual results that the company may achieve may differ materially from any forward-looking statements, which reflect the opinions of the management of the company only as of the date hereof. Additionally, please make sure to read these important disclosures.
First published in Fakty Konopne, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
Although we made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translations, some parts may be incorrect. Hemp.im assumes no responsibility for errors, omissions or ambiguities in the translations provided on this website. Any person or entity relying on translated content does so at their own risk. Hemp.im is not responsible for losses caused by such reliance on the accuracy or reliability of translated information. If you wish to report an error or inaccuracy in the translation, we encourage you to contact us.