Former NASA Chief of Staff Faces New Federal Charges

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Former NASA Chief of Staff Courtney Stadd pled not guilty Jan. 11 before a federal judge in Gulfport, Miss., to a nine-count indictment that includes allegations that he conspired with a NASA official to steer $450,000 through Mississippi State University to his consulting firm, Capitol Solutions, and submitted invoices for work he did not perform.

Stadd, 55, was convicted in 2009 of breaking ethics laws in steering nearly $10 million in NASA funds to Mississippi State —  a consulting client —  when the former chief of staff returned to NASA in mid-2005 for a two-month stint as a special government employee to help incoming NASA Administrator Mike Griffin reorganize the agency.

He was fined $2,500 in November and sentenced to three years of probation and six months of house arrest.

According to the new charges announced Jan. 11 by U.S. Attorney Donald Burkhalter and NASA Inspector General Paul Martin, Stadd conspired with NASA’s deputy chief engineer of programs in 2004 — Stadd was working as a consultant at the time — to steer a $600,000 remote-sensing study contract to Mississippi State with the understanding that the deputy chief engineer would work on the study after he retired from NASA in early 2005. Stadd’s company subsequently received $450,000 of the $600,000 sole-source contract and the newly retired deputy chief engineer received $87,000 from Stadd and Capitol Solutions. The indictment identifies the deputy chief engineer by title and as “an individual known to the Grand Jury.”

Current and former NASA officials told Space News that Liam Sarsfield was NASA’s deputy chief engineer in 2004. Sarsfield, like Stadd, returned to NASA in mid-2005 as a special government employee under Griffin. More recently, Stadd and Sarsfield — along with Paul Carliner, former appropriations clerk for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) — co-founded Quantum3 to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize. The team withdrew from the competition in August 2008, according to the X Prize Foundation’s Web site.

Sarsfield did not respond to requests for comment via e-mail and telephone Jan. 15.

The indictment also alleges Stadd submitted inflated invoices to Mississippi State and altered documents the government sought under a January 2006 subpoena.

Stadd is due back in court March 1.