The Kansas woman who claimed her estranged astronaut wife committed a crime while aboard the International Space Station has now been charged with lying to investigators.
Summer Worden, 44, was charged with making false statements to NASA's Office of Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission about NASA astronaut Anne McClain, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas announced. The indictment was unsealed Monday.
Worden had previously filed a complaint with the FTC and NASA that accused McClain of identity theft and of improperly accessing Worden’s bank account while McClain had been in space. Worden had contended McClain accessed a financial account without her permission, but allegedly misled investigators about when she opened the account and when she had changed the login credentials.
McClain, a decorated astronaut who is a candidate for a potential future Moon mission, had previously denied any claims of wrongdoing and said she regularly checked her and Worden's financial accounts to make sure everything was in order.
“There’s unequivocally no truth to these claims,” McClain wrote on Twitter at the time. “We’ve been doing through a painful, personal separation that’s now unfortunately in the media.”
McClain had said through her attorney that Worden didn't tell her the account was off limits after the couple filed for divorce, the New York Times reported.
Worden said on Monday that she was shocked by the charges and that she did not intend to mislead investigators, according to the Times.
However, she went on to say it was her intent to change her password for the account, but wasn't sure if she had actually done so.
“I didn’t misrepresent anything,” she told the Times.
Worden had allegedly set up the bank account in question earlier than she had told investigators and changed the login credentials for the account much later than she had previously claimed, the indictment alleged. Prosecutors concluded that Worden hadn't revoked McClain's access to the account, the Times reported.
If convicted, Worden faces up to five years in prison on each count and a possible $250,000 fine.
Worden's initial claim was the first public allegation of a crime committed while in space. Both Mark Sundahl, director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, and NASA officials were not aware of any prior allegations of a crime taking place in outer space, they told the New York Times in 2019.
NASA had previously praised McClain in a statement, while adding it would not comment on personnel matters.
“Lt. Col. Anne McClain has an accomplished military career, flew combat mission in Iraq and is one of NASA’s top astronauts,” NASA said. “She did a great job on her most recent NASA mission aboard the International Space Station. Like with all NASA employees, NASA does not comment on personnel matters.”
Worden is set to make an initial court appearance in the case on April 13.
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