Monday, June 18, 2018
News Roundup

Scientists from Belleair Beach charged with defrauding government

On one side of a budding criminal case stand the alleged victims — more than a dozen federal departments and agencies including the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Department of Homeland Security and NASA.

On the other side stand a Belleair Beach scientist couple accused of bilking more than $10 million from the federal government.

A grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses Mahmoud "Matt" Aldissi and his wife, Anastassia "Anastasia" Bogomolova, of obtaining government contracts for years based on inflated proposals and billing for nonexistent employees and consultants.

A 15-count indictment charges the couple with wire fraud, identify theft, falsification of records and obstructing investigators.

The couple's lawyers say their clients did nothing wrong.

"We dispute the charges," said Todd Foster, a Tampa lawyer representing Aldissi. "We are going to plead not guilty on the charges and we are going to present our defense."

Aldissi, 61, could not be reached for comment for this story. Foster said Aldissi is a chemist from a "Middle Eastern" country who earned his doctorate in Europe.

A presentation by a superconductor company about a decade ago described Aldissi as a "conductive polymer scientist" and one of its advisers, with at least 80 published papers and 20 patents to his credit.

Bogomolova, whose age is listed as 51, appends "Ph.D" to the byline on the blog she writes for polymersolutions.com.

The investigation stretches back to the late 1990s, not long after Aldissi incorporated Fractal Systems in 1998. Bogomolova incorporated Smart Polymers Research Corp. in 2004.

The indictment alleges both companies won contracts in a competitive-bidding process by "using the stolen identities of real people in order to create false endorsements of and for their proposed contracts."

Aldissi and Bogomolova used money derived by inflated budget sheets to "enrich themselves and others," the indictment alleges. The indictment does not specify what most of the work entailed or indicate that it was not performed.

Several universities, including the University of South Florida's Center for Biological Defense, the University of Florida, Louisiana State University and three in France, have been named as "relevant entities" in the case.

"USF is a victim in this matter and is not accused of any wrongdoing or violations of law," the university said in a statement. "USF has fully cooperated in the investigation leading to this indictment. USF will continue to support federal law enforcement action against identity theft, fraud and other criminal acts outlined in the indictment."

The U.S. Attorney's Office was tight-lipped about the case.

"As the indictment alleges, the defendants are charged with multiple counts, including the fraudulent means in which they obtained the government contracts," spokesman William C. Daniels told the Tampa Bay Times in an email.

Ten federal departments, agencies or offices, including the Army's criminal investigation unit and the Department of Homeland Security, investigated the case. If convicted on all charges, Aldissi and Bogomolova each face up to 20 years in prison.

The couple would also have to pay back $10 million to the government and forfeit assets, including a 2012 BMW and more than $537,000 in bank and insurance accounts.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437 on Twitter.

Comments
Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Two people drowned and another suffered life-threatening injuries in the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.Investigators said all three cases appear to be accidents, but the incidents stand as a reminder that summer, with vacation ...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

SEMINOLE — She was 22 when deputies said a man forced her at knifepoint into the woods off Seminole Boulevard and sexually battered her in February 1987.The case went cold, but now the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said it has arrested the man it ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Iceland World Cup Fever … catch it!

Iceland World Cup Fever … catch it!

TAMPA — Iceland isn't what it used to be. Literally. The Nordic island country is shrinking, what with global warming. Iceland's glaciers are getting smaller. If you took all that ice and laid it end to end, well, you clearly have nothing bette...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

TAMPA — Police are seeking the public’s help in locating the driver who fatally struck a pedestrian on Sunday night and then drove off.The incident took place at 9:15 p.m. near the intersection of N Nebraska Avenue and E Linebaugh Avenue.No details a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

HUDSON — A 16-year-old St. Petersburg teen who was seven months pregnant was fatally injured in a crash Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident took place at 9:11 p.m. on Little Road south of Hudson Avenue. The teen, Emily ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mazzaro’s gets ready to reopen

Mazzaro’s gets ready to reopen

day after an electrical fire broke out in its dry goods warehouse Friday night.Dominic Horwath, a grocery manager at Mazzaro’s on 22nd Ave. N, said staffers spent Monday and the weekend moving things into other warehouses.The damage from the fire at ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

WashingtonPentagon suspends August drills with South KoreaThe Pentagon on Monday formally suspended a major military exercise planned for August with South Korea, a much-anticipated move stemming from President Donald Trump’s nuclear summit with Nort...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Pete heroin dealer delays sentencing by firing another lawyer

St. Pete heroin dealer delays sentencing by firing another lawyer

TAMPA — William Harold Wright was supposed to learn his punishment Monday for bringing massive shipments of heroin to the streets of St. Petersburg.Instead, the convicted drug dealer once again ditched his attorney and declared his innocence, cutting...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, trying to stop a streaking champion

For starters: Rays at Astros, trying to stop a streaking champion

UPDATE, 6:40: Cash said he had a good talk with Hechavarria, and that he understood the situation. Cash said Hechavarria will get to play some, and when he does it will be at short. … RHP Chris Archer (abdominal strain) is slated to throw a bul...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Geneva‘Gaming disorder’ named a diseaseThe World Health Organization on Monday officially recognized "gaming disorder" as a condition in its International Classification of Diseases, saying that it is possible to be addicted to video games. Simply pl...
Updated: 2 hours ago