NORFOLK, Va. — A Navy lieutenant commander has been indicted on charges of buying airplane parts for his personal plane and not for a Defense Department drone as he had claimed.
Christopher Lee Tappen, 35, of Carmel, Calif., faces three counts of filing false claims, two counts of theft of public property and one count of making false statements. An arrest warrant was issued Friday following action by the grand jury.
Tappen, a former Navy pilot, was stationed in Norfolk in 2010 and 2011 when he purchased, with Defense Department funds, airplane parts that he claimed were for an unmanned drone, according to the indictment. He is accused of using those parts for his personal Velocity aircraft. Velocity is a Florida company that sells airplane kits.
The indictment also charges Tappen with obtaining flight training with Velocity by claiming it was for learning to operate a drone when instead he was learning to fly a Velocity aircraft.
Tappen also is charged with stealing aircraft parts, tools, computers, cameras, camcorders, printers and speakers from the Navy while stationed here. The indictment says Tappen lied when asked where a camera was.
Prosecutors said in the indictment that Tappen's actions cost the government $74,000.
According to the Navy, Tappen entered the service in 2000, obtained aviator training and served with Strike Fighter Squadron 15 in Virginia Beach from 2005 to 2007. He transferred to oceanography and was stationed in Norfolk with the ocean special warfare detachment from 2007 to 2011. He is in postgraduate school in Monterey, Calif.
No court date has been set.