SAN JOSE -- A Bay Area man and a China resident have been charged in federal court on allegations they routinely bamboozled NASA and the National Science Foundation into giving them more than $1 million in research grants, the U.S. Attorney announced Friday.
Ali Kashani, 52, of San Jose, and Yang Zhao, 40, a former El Cerrito resident who now lives in China, were indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday for half a dozen charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Kashani has also been charged with money laundering.
Prosecutors say the two ran a scientific-research company called Atlas Scientific, which specialized in adhesive tape based on carbon nanotubes. From 2008 to 2011, despite having received grant funding from the National Science Foundation, they applied for NASA grants for the same research, violating application requirements that they disclose whether they were receiving other grants, presumably to ensure funding was fairly distributed among applicants.
Kashani and Zhao are accused of intentionally flouting the requirements by lying to each agency about not getting funds from the other. Zhao is also alleged to have misrepresented her employment with UC Berkeley when applying for the grants, though details on that element were not disclosed.
All told, the two received about $1.2 million in grant money.
Kashani was arrested and appeared in federal court Thursday. He remains in custody pending an April 2 court appearance. Zhao is believed to be living in China.
The maximum penalties for each of the charges range from 10 to 20 years in prison and as much as a $250,000 fine along with restitution.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.