Pair to stand trail in 2013 wire fraud scheme to steal money from NASA
On March 27, 2013 a felony indictment was handed down against Ali Kashani and Yang Zhao of Atlas Scientific, also known as Atlas Nanotechnologies, located at 1367 Camino Robles Way in San Jose. The company had been established to conduct research regarding adhesives and carbon nano-tubes.
Kashani was the president of “Atlas” when he and a female employee, Yang Zhao, began to seek funding for research programs through a Small Business Innovation Research funding program or (SBIR), which offers scientific grants to small business owners. The National Science Foundation (NSF), in association with the National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA), sponsor grant proposal submissions sent to SBIR and other grant proposal project sites.
Kashani began submitting grant proposals in June 2006, then continuing January through June 2007. Kashani and Zhao submitted a NASA SBIR proposal tilted “Dry Thermal Adhesive” based on carbon nano-tubes. The NSF awarded Atlas funding of $99,991 in June of 2007. Finding a lucrative payout, the pair sought larger funding of up to more than 2 million dollars at different times within a period of five years.
On Sept 6, 2007 Kashani and Zhao submitted an application to NASA seeking funding for a project field study titled “Thermally Conductive Tape Based on Carbon Nanotube Array”. In a short essay format the document reads, “The goal of the proposed research is to develop a flexible thermally-conductive tape”. The tape would be used in electrical devices to help prevent off-gassing through the use of nano-tube technology. However, the use seemingly derives from other technologies already used in the computer and hardware industry when building hard drive and electronic applications.
Similar aspects of the proposal are already widely in use as an “electrical tape” often used in the automotive industry. The proposal, in fact, resulted in the waste, fraud and abuse by Atlas employees seeking to enrich themselves at the taxpayers’ expense. Under the NASA SBIR, an award of $99,970, and $599,927 was given in two separate phases ending February 5 of 2008.
Zhao continued to seek funding on Jan 26, 2009 when she sought $124,998 for grant funding, claiming that Atlas had not received funding prior to her application, stating that she was an employee with Atlas, that she worked directly on the project, and had not received funding from a separate agency.
Kashani and Zhao had received funding from 2007 – 2010 when federal authorities caught onto their scheme to commit wire fraud, a violation under 18 U.S.C. §1957 (a), engaging in monetary transactions derived from unlawful activity. Funding had been transferred to a Wells Fargo Account under “Atlas” and was subsequently transformed by Kashani into his personal bank account.
Kashani certified through FastLane in association with the NSF that no other funding was being used to perform similar work. However, it was determined that documents submitted to NASA through the SBIR were, in fact, false. In a six count indictment Kashani and Zhao appeared in federal court on March 18, 2014 on six counts of wire fraud. They face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The trial is expected to be held in the Northern Federal Court of San Jose on June 20, 2014.