Meyya Meyyappan, a 66-year-old from Pacifica, California, has worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) since about 1996.
Around 2006, Meyyappan became the Chief Scientist, Exploration Technology at the Center for Nanotechnology, for NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field located in Silicon Valley, California.
Meyyappan, while employed by NASA, was subject to certain requirements, including prohibitions relative to travel, outside employment, and compensation. He “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.”
Meyyappan further held professorships for universities in South Korea, Japan, and China without telling either NASA or the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Meyyappan later lied about these associations.
“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.”
He pleaded guilty to the charges against him on January 13, 2021, and was sentenced on June 16 to 30 days in prison for having made false statements to the FBI, NASA’s Office of Inspector General (NASA OIG), and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (USAO). He was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
“The privilege of access to cutting edge U.S. technologies and intellectual property comes with the critical responsibility of protecting their secrecy,” stated USAO Audrey Strauss. “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.”