A conflict between a divorcing couple sparked what might be the first allegations of criminal wrongdoing in space.
The New York Times has reported that NASA astronaut Anne McClain’s former partner, Summer Worden, has accused her of committing identity theft from the International Space Station.
McClain, a West Point graduate and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who joined NASA in 2013, was off on a six-month space mission when Worden, a former Air Force Intelligence officer living in Kansas, noticed that McClain seemed to know surprising things about Worden’s finances.
Worden approached her bank and asked for the locations of computers that had recently accessed her bank account. The bank informed her that one of the computers was registered with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The couple had been embroiled in an acrimonious separation battle, and were engaged in a dispute about the parenting of Worden’s son. Worden filed for divorce in 2018 after McClain accused her of assault. The case was later dismissed, and Worden has maintained that the charges are not true and are part of McClain’s efforts to get an edge in the parenting dispute, according to the Times.
After learning that McClain had accessed the account, Worden filed an identity theft complaint to the Federal Trade Commission; her family also filed a complaint to NASA’s Office of Inspector General, accusing McClain of getting improper access to financial records. She did not see signs that someone had taken or moved money in the account.
Worden and her mother have told the Times that NASA’s Office of Inspector General has been looking into the case, although Worden said that the FTC has not yet responded to the identity theft report.
McClain’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told the Times that his client “strenuously denies” improper behavior and said that she is cooperating with investigators. McClain has said through a lawyer that she had merely wanted to make sure that the family’s finances were in order.
A spokesperson from NASA said that the agency does not comment on “personal or personnel matters,” but praised McClain’s work with NASA and in the military.
“Lt Col. Anne McClain has an accomplished military career, flew combat missions in Iraq and is one of NASA’s top astronauts. She did a great job on her most recent NASA mission aboard the International Space Station,” NASA spokesperson Brandi Dean wrote in an email.
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