A former National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) official pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators regarding his financial interest in a private company.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Patricia C. Langford of NGA and Acting Special Agent in Charge Paul Sternal of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office made the announcement.

Brian P. Hearing, 43, of Falls Church, Virginia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia to an information charging him with making material false statements to federal investigators.

According to the statement of facts filed along with his plea agreement, Hearing worked at NGA from 2011 to 2015 in its Innovision Directorate, an applied science and technology research group.  Hearing admitted that, during this time, he also co-founded a private company for the purpose of developing and commercializing a certain type of automated detection system.  Hearing also admitted that he inappropriately used his position with the NGA to promote the company.

In connection with his guilty plea, Hearing also admitted that, when questioned by federal agents about his involvement with the company, he lied to conceal his conflict of interest.  Among other things, Hearing admitted to falsely claiming that another individual was the only founder of the company and to denying having any legal or financial connections to the company when, in fact, he co-founded the company and shared equal ownership of it.

This case was investigated by the NGA-OIG and the DCIS.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Heidi Boutros Gesch of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Nathanson of the Eastern District of Virginia.

Civilian Navy Employee Found Guilty of Obstruction and False Statements After Jury Trial

A federal jury today returned a guilty verdict against a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy posted at the Capodichino Navy Base near Naples, Italy, for obstructing an investigation and making false statements, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt of the Southern District of Iowa.

Steven William Ashton, 41, with a last known U.S. residence in Davenport, Iowa, was found guilty after a nine-day jury trial of creating false documents to obstruct the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation into Ashton’s private consulting business called BlackGrid Consulting LLC.  The jury also found Ashton guilty of making false statements about his tour of duty in order to obtain federal benefits and access to military bases worldwide.

The evidence at trial showed that the NCIS was investigating Ashton for conflicts of interest and using inside government information to advance his business.  When Ashton learned about the investigation, he created fraudulent documentation purporting to show that he had fully disclosed his business to Navy authorities and received approval.  At Ashton’s direction, his defense counsel unwittingly submitted those false documents to the prosecutors and gave other false explanations to the Justice Department.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from April 2004 to March 2013, Ashton was employed by the Navy as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Host Nation Programs Manager for the regions of Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia, responsible for managing contracts and agreements among the Navy and other countries to support the United States’ military efforts.

He was found not guilty on charges of theft of government funds for obtaining housing benefits, called Living Quarters Assistance, to which he was not entitled, and of obstructing that investigation.

This case was investigated by the NCIS and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.  The case is being prosecuted by Director of Procurement Fraud Litigation Catherine Votaw of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford Cronk of the Southern District of Iowa.