HOUSTON (CN) — A woman who accused her ex-wife, a NASA astronaut, of accessing her bank account without permission from the International Space Station was charged with fabricating the allegations in a federal indictment unsealed Monday.
Summer Worden, 44, of Wichita, Kansas, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in March 2019, accusing Anne McClain, 40, of logging into her bank account from a computer on the International Space Station.
Worden and McClain were married in 2014, but by 2018 their relationship was on the fritz. Worden filed for divorce that year, and McClain went to court to try to get custody of Worden’s son.
According to the indictment, Worden told the FTC that, to keep McClain out of her finances, she had opened a new personal checking account in September 2018 and changed her login credentials.
McClain is a decorated Army lieutenant colonel and helicopter pilot who flew 216 combat missions in Iraq.
She did not let her marital problems derail her career with NASA after it selected her for its astronaut program in 2013. She finished her training in July 2015 and deployed to the International Space Station in December 2018.
Days before McClain was scheduled to do the first all-female space walk with fellow astronaut Christina Koch in March 2019, Worden filed her complaint with the FTC.
McClain missed her chance to make history because NASA, in an embarrassing admission for an agency whose work requires meticulous preparation, said it did not have space suits in Koch’s and McClain’s sizes.
A NASA spokeswoman later told The New York Times the decision had nothing to do with Worden’s accusations.
McClain returned to Earth last summer and stepped into a media firestorm after word got out that Worden’s family had filed a complaint with NASA’s Office of Inspector General, accusing her of identity theft and snooping into Worden’s bank account.
Headlines called McClain the first person accused of committing a crime in space.
When investigators from the inspector general’s office interviewed Worden in July 2019, she told them that McClain had covertly logged into her checking account from the International Space Station on Jan. 5 and Jan. 31, 2019, according to the indictment.
But prosecutors say in the indictment that Worden had given McClain the login information and permission to go into the account and did not change her credentials until Jan. 31, 2019.
McClain’s attorney said her client did access the account from space, but did so because she and Worden had not yet separated their finances, according to the Times and other news reports.
“She strenuously denies that she did anything improper,” her attorney Rusty Hardin of Houston told the Times in August.
Worden is charged with two counts of making false statements to federal authorities.
If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison on each count and a maximum fine of $250,000, prosecutors said.
Worden, a former Air Force intelligence officer, is to make her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Dena Palermo on April 13, prosecutors said.