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@example.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437 on Twitter.