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Press Release

Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Investment Fraud Scheme Involving Fake NASA Contracts

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – A Marne, Michigan, man pleaded guilty today to a wire fraud charge arising from his participation in an investment fraud scheme.

According to court documents, beginning in at least February 2014, Steven Vernon Cross, 52, along with co-defendant Pranit Patil, 34, an Indian national, engaged in a years-long scheme to defraud victims who lent funds to or invested in Cross’s company, Commonwealth Applied Silica Technologies, LLC (CAST). Cross falsely represented to victims that CAST had valuable contracts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for silica processing. As part of the scheme, Cross provided victims with fake NASA contracts, assisted by Patel, who falsely presented himself as a NASA employee in charge of contracting. Cross led victims to believe that their funds were being invested in profit-making endeavors, when in fact many of the funds were being used to pay Cross’s personal expenses and also being paid out to Patil.

Cross is scheduled to be sentenced on February 16, 2024. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office; and Adelle K. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Inspector General’s Eastern Field Office, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael C. Moore and Thomas A. Garnett are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:19-cr-158.

Updated October 12, 2023

Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud