Coconut Creek Man Sentenced to Prison for Misuse of National Science Foundation Seal
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Allison C. Lerner, Inspector General, National Science Foundation (NSF), announced that Edward F. Elliot, 67, of Coconut Creek, Florida, was sentenced today to a year and a day in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release, and a fine of $25,000 as a result of his guilty plea to charges of falsely making and forging the seal of the National Science Foundation, an agency of the United States, and knowingly using and affixing such fraudulently made and forged seals and facsimiles upon instruments, documents, and papers, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 506(a)(1) and (2).
U.S. District Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley, who previously accepted Elliot’s guilty plea, imposed the prison sentence after a lengthy hearing.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Defendant Elliot’s misuse of the National Science Foundation’s seal gave his pet dietary business an air of legitimacy that it had not earned and misled customers into using products made in laboratories that had not, in fact, been monitored or inspected by the NSF. Elliot’s use of the NSF seal was a fraud, intended to help him make more money by defrauding his customers.”
Allison Lerner, National Science Foundation Inspector General said, “This sentence sends a strong signal to anyone who would seek to mislead the public by making fraudulent representations regarding National Science Foundation support for an organization or enterprise. I commend the U.S. Attorney’s office for its strong support in this case.”
According to court records and statements made in court, from as early as December 2010, the Deerfield Beach-based company, Pet Corner International, LLC (PCI), at which the defendant served as Operations Manager under a series of false names, including Ted Godfrey and Ted Lambert, marketed distributorships to individuals interested in selling a line of pet dietary supplements for dogs offered by PCI. PCI’s website and various promotional materials and training manuals asserted that the products were produced in a laboratory audited and inspected by the National Science Foundation. This fraudulent claim was buttressed by the use of the seal or logo of the Foundation on the site and in promotional paperwork sent to potential and actual distributors. In court, the government indicated that at least 62 contracts were signed by distributors between December 2010 and June 2011, and that the false statements continued to be made to potential customers as late as September 2011, well after specific notice had been given to PCI and Elliot by attorneys in the General Counsel’s Office of the Foundation that the claims were untrue and unlawful. Elliot was described in court by one of the distributors as having used false names, and as the individual principally responsible for communication with potential buyers and the distributors already signed-on by PCI.
The National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency established by Congress in 1950, is variously mandated to promote the progress of science, and to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare. The agency meets this mission by funding approximately 20% of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities with an annual budget of approximately $6.9 billion. The National Science Foundation neither tests consumer products, nor audits and inspects private laboratories.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Special Agents of the National Science Foundation whose investigative efforts resulted in the charges in this case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.