The misuse of NASA funding by two airport entities has resulted in millions of dollars of fines under the False Claims Act, which is used to look government grants funded by taxpayers. The Technological Research and Development Authority will pay $15 million to resolve allegations that it violated the Act in connection with grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the Department of Commerce, the Justice Department said.
TRDA, which was created by the Florida legislature as a special district, owns and operates facilities that are claimed to help small businesses by providing low-rent office space and business development assistance. TRDA and the Melbourne Airport Authority used NASA and EDA grants to construct an office building at the airport to be used as TRDA’s headquarters.
In a lawsuit filed against TRDA, the United States alleged that construction of the office building was outside the scope of the NASA grants from taxpayers awarded to TRDA and contrary to the terms of the EDA grant awarded jointly to TRDA and the airport authority, which prohibited combining funds from more than one federal agency for the project.
Under the terms of a plea deal with TRDA, the special district has agreed to settle these allegations, and to wind down its operations. The Melbourne International Airport and its governing body, the Melbourne Airport Authority, have agreed to pay the United States $4 million to resolve alleged False Claims Act violations based swindle described in the government’s lawsuit against TRDA.
“As this settlement demonstrates, the Department of Justice will hold accountable those who fail to take reasonable steps to avoid the use of federal funds in a manner contrary to grant requirements,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.