You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Senior Nasa Scientist Sentenced To Prison For Making False Statements Related To Chinese Thousand Talents Program Participation And Professorship

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (“USAO”), announced that MEYYA MEYYAPPAN, a senior National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“NASA”) scientist, was sentenced today to 30 days in prison for making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), NASA’s Office of Inspector General (“NASA OIG”), and the USAO. MEYYAPPAN pled guilty on January 13, 2021, before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, who also imposed today’s sentence.

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As a senior NASA scientist with access to sensitive and confidential U.S. government technologies and intellectual property, Meyya Meyyappan was understandably subject to restrictions regarding outside employment and compensation.  When questioned by the FBI and NASA, Meyyappan gave false statements regarding his employment by a Chinese government-funded program that recruited individuals with access to foreign technologies and intellectual property. The privilege of access to cutting edge U.S. technologies and intellectual property comes with the critical responsibility of protecting their secrecy. Meyyappan betrayed that trust, by failing to disclose his foreign activities and then compounding his mistakes by lying to the FBI and NASA.  He has now been sentenced to time in federal prison for his unlawful conduct.”

According to the allegations in the Information and other proceedings in this case:

From in or about 1996 through in or about 2021, MEYYAPPAN was employed by NASA, an independent U.S. government agency responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.  Beginning in or about 2006, MEYYAPPAN was the Chief Scientist, Exploration Technology at the Center for Nanotechnology, at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley, California.

In his position at NASA, MEYYAPPAN was subject to certain statutory, regulatory, and agency restrictions and reporting requirements regarding, among other things, outside employment, travel, and compensation.  Notwithstanding these prohibitions, MEYYAPPAN participated in China’s Thousand Talents Program, a program established by the Chinese government to recruit individuals with access to or knowledge of foreign technology or intellectual property, and held professorships at universities in China, South Korea, and Japan, and failed to disclose these associations and positions to NASA and the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. 

On or about October 27, 2020, MEYYAPPAN was interviewed by the FBI, NASA OIG, and the USAO, in New York, New York.  During that proffer session, MEYYAPPAN falsely stated, among other things, that he was not a member of the Thousand Talents Program and that he did not hold a professorship at a Chinese university.  In truth and in fact, MEYYAPPAN was a member of the Thousand Talents Program and held a professorship at a Chinese university, funded by the Chinese government.

*                *                *

MEYYAPPAN, 66, of Pacifica, California was also ordered to pay a fine of $ 100,000.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding work of the FBI and NASA OIG. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant United States Attorney Joshua A. Naftalis is in charge of the prosecution.  

Contact: 
Nicholas Biase, James Margolin (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
21-145
Updated June 16, 2021