NASA worker was accused of threatening to kill ex-wife. But she framed him, feds say

Asia's Tech News Daily

An employee for NASA working at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida was placed on leave in 2018 after he was accused of sending harassing and threatening emails from his work account, according to federal court filings.

Investigators later discovered the emails weren’t real.

The employee’s ex-wife, 47-year-old Stacy R. Caruvana, was accused of making up the allegations. Federal prosecutors said she used doctored emails and fake text messages to spur an investigation by the NASA Office of Inspector General against the employee, with whom she was going through a divorce at the time.

Caruva pleaded guilty earlier this year to knowingly making a false statement in connection with a federal investigation. On Tuesday, Nov. 30, a judge sentenced her to time served and one year of supervised release.

Caruvana, who is from Rockledge, Florida, has been in custody since pleading guilty in June.

She could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, Nov. 30, and defense attorneys representing her did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment.

According to documents filed alongside her plea agreement, NASA investigators received an anonymous letter in May 2018 accusing an employee identified as A.C. of using drugs, having child porn, committing domestic violence and misusing government resources.

The letter prompted an agent to begin investigating the employee, prosecutors said.

Five months later, Caruvana reportedly called the investigating agent and told him there was a warrant for the employee’s arrest in New Jersey on charges relating to threats and stalking. The government said she also sent an email to the investigator with the indictment and a temporary restraining order attached.

Accompanying the indictment and restraining order was a statement from Caruvana attesting that A.C. threatened to kill her in a series of text messages, including one that reportedly read “I can’t wait to see your lifeless body soiled in (expletive) dumped in the Hudson.”

She sent those texts to the NASA investigator, prosecutors said.

Shortly thereafter, the agent confirmed there was an outstanding warrant for A.C. in New Jersey. According to court filings, he was arrested on Oct. 18, 2018, and taken him to the Brevard County jail and later transferred to New Jersey. A.C. spent 23 days in custody before he was released on bond, prosecutors said.

After the arrest, the investigating agent reportedly asked Caruvana for any additional threatening messages she claimed to have received from A.C.’s NASA email. In response, prosecutors said, she provided 28 emails.

In one of the expletive-laden emails, A.C. reportedly threatened to cut off her internet and evict her if she didn’t “maintain the pool and the lawn.” The investigator later discovered the text of the email had been altered before it was sent to him.

The original email talked about an argument they had when he reportedly went to the house to fix the sprinkler, court documents state. In it, A.C. spoke about “our amicable parting of ways” and told Caruvana he was canceling the internet because “AT&T stinks anyway,” adding that she already had a new provider.

A.C. was given a notice of removal from NASA before investigators realized the emails were doctored, prosecutors said, and he was placed on leave from Nov. 20, 2018, to Dec. 9, 2018.

During that period, Caruvana reportedly sent NASA investigators screenshots of threatening text messages she said A.C. had sent.

It wasn’t until investigators reviewed the original emails from A.C.’s NASA account on Dec. 6, 2018, that they realized some portion of them had been changed, the government said. They also determined A.C. had been in a different location than whoever sent the text messages to Caruvana.

“During part of the relevant time period, A.C. was in Florida, whereas whomever was using the cell phone ending in 7505 was connecting with a cell tower near the residence of Caruvana’s parents’ residence in New Jersey, which is where Caruvana was staying at the time,” prosecutors said.

According to court documents, Caruvana later emailed the NASA agent again in May 2019 and said A.C. threatened to kill her in a phone call. Investigators subsequently searched her home, and she admitted to making up the threats.

A grand jury indicted Caruvana in August 2020, and she pleaded guilty in June, court filings show. The judge ordered she remain in custody following the hearing, saying she violated the conditions of her release.

In a request for her release, defense attorneys said Caruvana has rheumatoid arthritis and was without her pain medication in April when she opted to self-medicate with cannabis. They said she has authorization to use cannabis for medical purposes.

“While her use of cannabis was certainly a willful violation of her conditions of release, the Court can consider that this was not a recreational use and that there was a reason for the violation (albeit misplaced),” defense attorneys said.

Another flare-up reportedly prevented her from coming to court for her first change-of-plea hearing the same month.

The judge ultimately denied her request to be released as well as a second request filed in September that cited concerns about COVID-19 at the the John Polk Correctional Center where she was held. She ultimately served six months, which the judge determined was an adequate sentence.

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