Report - NASA is frequent victim of contractor fraud

Thursday, October 31, 2002

WASHINGTON -- From faulty parts for the International Space Station to the theft of moon rocks, the nation's cash-thin space agency was defrauded dozens of times over the last year by contractors -- and sometimes by its own employees, investigative reports show.

Some of the problems discovered by NASA's inspector general office involved faulty parts, improper repairs and fake test results that could endanger the safety of astronauts and others, the internal watchdog said. It said NASA should significantly improve its oversight of contractors.

"We are particularly concerned with product substitution fraud that can impact safety," said Paul Shawcross, executive officer for the inspector general.

A review of inspector general records found that in the past year, the internal watchdog cited more than 50 individuals and nearly three dozen instances in which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was victimized by improper actions, mostly involving criminal and civil fraud.

Oklahoma City chosen for mock gas attack

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Federal agencies plan to release harmless gases in Oklahoma City next summer to test how chemical and biological weapons would work in a terrorist attack.

"The goal of this program is in domestic terrorism preparedness," said Jerry Allwine, a scientist with the Environmental Technology Division of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "It's important to the protection of the homeland against chemical and biological threats."

A similar study was conducted in 2000 in Salt Lake City.

The $4 million test, discussed at Tuesday's City Council meeting, is a project of the departments of energy and defense. It will also involve the University of Oklahoma and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Parachutist missing after landing in Pacific

PISMO BEACH, Calif. -- Rescuers on Wednesday searched for a parachutist who disappeared after landing in the Pacific Ocean during the filming of a Bruce Willis action movie.

The parachutist was among nine sky divers who jumped from a plane 14,000 feet above the ocean on Tuesday, all planning to land on a nearby beach.

Two landed in deep water about 300 yards offshore, said Andrew Zilke, chief ranger at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. One of the parachutists was rescued.

Using helicopters, boats, and personal water craft, several rescue agencies searched the area located about 180 miles north of Los Angeles, with no success.

Former mob turncoat gets 19 years for drugs

PHOENIX -- Former mob turncoat Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano was sentenced to 19 years in state prison Wednesday for masterminding an Ecstasy drug ring.

The sentence will run concurrently with a 20-year federal prison term Gravano already has.

Until his arrest in 1999, Gravano had been living in Scottsdale under the assumed name "Jimmy Moran" after testifying against now-deceased Gambino crime family boss John Gotti. He had admitted to 19 murders as a mob hitman but served only five years in prison on racketeering charges under a deal with New York prosecutors to testify against Gotti, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1992.

--From wire reports

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