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Former Army researcher pleads guilty in $750K fraud

A former Army researcher abused his position to win contracts for a firm he secretly controlled.

A former Army researcher at Aberdeen Proving Ground pleaded guilty Monday to steering millions of dollars of contracts to companies that he secretly controlled, netting himself and his alleged conspirators $750,000.

Mark Nixon, 54, the former director of a vehicle unit at the Army Research Laboratory, faces 42 months in prison and will have to pay the government back under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Army officials said the case showed the lengths to which people will go to defraud the military.

Nixon and his wife created a company called Motile Robotics Inc., according to his plea agreement, and he then used his government job to steer contracting dollars to it.

The firm received $5 million for work on a pair of wind tunnel projects, Nixon admitted in the agreement. On one of those projects, Nixon billed the government for $35,000 in labor by one of his relatives, who was described as an aerospace engineer, but was actually a retired school cafeteria worker.

Nixon's wife, Sandra Nixon, and a third person, Kenneth Dawson, who on paper was the company's president, also face charges and are scheduled in court later this month.

Sandra Nixon's attorney declined to comment. Lawyers for Mark Nixon and Dawson could not be reached.

Mark Nixon was the head of the Army's Vehicle Technology Directorate between 2008 and 2010. The unit moved to Aberdeen Proving Ground from two other locations during that time, and in 2009 the Army released a picture of Nixon and other officials shoveling dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony for its new facility.

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