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Accused NASA spy billed US gov for swimming pool upkeep

Court documents unsealed...a bit late

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The former NASA scientist who was arrested last week for attempted espionage had earlier pleaded guilty to over-billing the US space agency and Department of Defense to pay his personal credit card debt and maintain a pool, according to court documents unsealed Friday.

Stewart Nozette was arrested in a sting where he allegedly offered to sell sensitive government secrets he obtained while working with NASA to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli Intelligence officer for $11,000. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if found guilty.

Newly unsealed court documents indicate this was not the first time Nozette has been fingered for misdeeds at NASA. In a plea agreement signed in January, he admitted to over-charging NASA and the Defense Department by more than $265,000 for contracting work through his non-profit firm, the Alliance of Competitive Technology, to which he was founder, president, and treasurer.

The work was done by himself and an employee between 2000 and 2006, court filings show. Nozette admitted that he used the extra money to help pay personal credit card bills, car loans, cleaning services, clothing, and maintenance costs for his swimming pool, among other things.

The charges and plea agreement had originally been sealed because Nozette was cooperating with an on-going investigation about potential wrong-doing by others, including government officials, court records show.

A motion dated June 2009 indicates that US Attorneys wanted to unseal the charges and Nozette's admission of guilt because he continued to have access to secure government facilities at NASA and wanted to allow US agencies to make "appropriate security determinations" concerning him. Apparently, the cogs of justice were turning a bit too slow on this one. ®

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