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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 23, 2015

Wife of Department of Defense Employee Sentenced for Fraudulently Obtaining Over $750,000 from Contracts with Aberdeen Proving Ground

Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced Sandra Nixon, a/k/a “Lisa Hart,” age 52, of Silver Spring, Maryland today to six months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to defraud the United States. Judge Garbis also entered an order requiring Nixon to pay restitution of $750,000.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Frank Robey, Director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command's Major Procurement Fraud Unit; Special Agent in Charge Robert Craig of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service - Mid-Atlantic Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sandra Nixon was married to co-defendant Mark Nixon.  Mark Nixon was a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, and worked at the U.S. Army Research Laboratories (ARL) in Hampton, Virginia, and Aberdeen, Maryland. From 2008 to December 2010, Nixon was the director of the Vehicle Technology Directorate with ARL at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Co-defendant Kenneth Dawson was a longtime friend of the Nixons.

Sandra and Mark Nixon also had a financial interest and management role in the operation of Motile Robotics, Inc. (MRI), located in Joppa, Maryland; Atlantic Capital Enterprises (ACE); and Arrow Technical Incorporated (ATI).

Sandra and Mark Nixon reached an agreement with Kenneth Dawson to create and operate MRI.  Dawson had full time employment with two different defense contractors that required him to report to work at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where he lived.  In 2007, Dawson used his personal credit cards to pay for startup costs associated with MRI, and the Nixons reimbursed Dawson for these expenses.  Although Dawson was the supposed president of MRI, in reality, Sandra and Mark Nixon created MRI, provided significant input regarding its operation, and were in effect a silent and undisclosed partner, owner and co-president.  They helped operate MRI using the aliases “Lisa Hart” and "Paul Martin" in order to conceal their financial interest.

According to their plea agreements, in 2008, Mark Nixon determined that microsystem controls research was needed, including the fabrication of a small open-jet wind tunnel. Mark Nixon created and approved government documents that caused ARL to fund this research, and became the designated team leader for ARL on the research project.

In January 2009, the United States awarded a large defense contractor a task order to construct the open flow wind tunnel from February 2008 to 2011, worth approximately $3.6 million. Mark Nixon persuaded the defense contractor to use MRI as a subcontractor.  Mark Nixon also played an important role in the government awarding the defense contractor another task order to construct a closed circuit wind tunnel from January 2009 to 2011, for approximately $3.5 million, under which MRI was a subcontractor.  Mark Nixon provided the contracting officer with a technical evaluation of the contract and its cost, and acted as the government official overseeing and managing this work on a routine basis.

Pursuant to the conspiracy, the United States was billed for more than $35,000 in false labor charges by a relative of Sandra Nixon, who was characterized as an aerospace engineer.  In reality, the relative was a retired school employee.  Although Mark Nixon knew that he had a prohibited financial interest in MRI, he conducted a technical evaluation of MRI’s capabilities as a subcontractor, and approved the false invoices.

MRI received more than $5 million in federal funds under these task orders. Mark Nixon caused MRI to pay money to ATI, and ATI to pay ACE.  The three defendants personally benefited from over $750,000 sent to these companies. The Nixons personally received more than $400,000 as a result of the task orders awarded to MRI. 

Mark Nixon, age 55, of Silver Spring, Maryland, pleaded guilty on June 15, 2015 to his participation in the conspiracy and was sentenced to 42 months in prison.  Judge Garbis also entered an order requiring Nixon to pay restitution of $750,000.

Kenneth Dawson, age 52, of Niceville, Florida, also has pleaded guilty to his participation in the conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on December 15, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

The National Procurement Fraud Task Force was formed in October 2006 to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs.  The Procurement Fraud Task Force includes the United States Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Task Force, demonstrate the Department of Justice’s commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command's Major Procurement Fraud Unit, DCIS and FBI for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Harry M. Gruber and P. Michael Cunningham, who prosecuted the case.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated November 23, 2015