Professor, wife convicted of fraud in $700,000 NASA contract

A university professor and his wife were convicted Friday of defrauding NASA by letting graduate students and researchers do all the work on a $700,000 project.

Lehigh University engineering professor Yujie Ding and his wife, Yuliya Zotova, told NASA that their startup company would develop a cutting-edge sensor used to track climate change, The Morning Call of Allentown reported (

Zotova, 41, who has a doctorate in physics, was supposed to run the project and oversee the work of graduate students and research fellows in her husband's laboratory at Lehigh. The students never saw her there, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors called their company, ArkLight, merely "a front" to seek federal grants and said Ding, 53, hid his role in the company from Lehigh.

Zotova testified that her social anxieties prevented her from going to the lab but that she worked on the project at home. Her lawyer argued that the research found at the couple's home in Saucon Township showed the depth of her involvement.

The jury deliberated for two days before convicting the couple of six of 10 fraud counts.

They each face up to 20 years in prison at their sentencing, scheduled for March 2.