Stadd Enters Guilty Plea in NASA Contracting Case

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Former NASA Chief of Staff Courtney Stadd pleaded guilty Aug. 18 before a federal judge in Gulfport, Miss., to conspiring to steer the bulk of a $600,000 remote-sensing study contract through Mississippi State University to his consulting firm.

He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced Nov. 18, according to Sheila Wilbanks, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman.

Stadd, 55, of Bethesda, Md., 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. He was fined $2,500 and sentenced to three years of probation and six months of house arrest.

Last December, U.S. Attorney Donald Burkhalter secured a nine-count indictment charging Stadd with conspiring with a NASA official to steer money to his consulting firm and submitting invoices for work he did not perform. Stadd initially pleaded not guilty to the charges.

During an Aug. 18 court appearance before U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden, Stadd admitted that beginning in 2004 he conspired with the NASA deputy chief engineer of programs, Liam Sarsfield, to allocate NASA funds to Mississippi State for a remote-sensing study. Some $450,000 of those funds was subcontracted to Stadd, who subsequently paid a newly retired Sarsfield $87,000 for his work on the study. Stadd also admitted to submitting falsified invoices to Mississippi State and meeting with senior government officials to try to stop a NASA inspector general investigation of his activities, according to a U.S. Justice Department press release announcing Stadd’s guilty plea.

Sarsfield, the former NASA deputy chief engineer who allegedly conspired with Stadd, pleaded guilty in November to a charge of conflict of interest and is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 27.