Prosecutors arrested former Drexel University professor for using cancer research funds at strip clubs, sports bars, and for other personal uses.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner charged Chikaodinaka Nwankpa, who chaired Drexel's engineering department, with theft by unlawful taking and theft by deception on Tuesday, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney Office Media Center The Justice Wire. Nwankpa spent $185,000 in federal grant money from the Department of the Navy, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation for various personal entertainment purposes, ABC Philadelphia reported.
“Mr. Nwankpa inappropriately and criminally diverted tens of thousands of dollars that were allocated for research purposes toward his own private enjoyment,” Krasner told The Justice Wire. “He betrayed Drexel University and tuition-paying students he was paid to educate.”
Following an internal audit in 2017, Drexel discovered Nwankpa made numerous personal purchases between July 2007 and April 2017, NBC Philadelphia reported. Nwankpa attempted to hide the unauthorized spending on personal entertainment by claiming that the funds were used in catering and food, according to The Justice Wire.
The Justice Wire reported Nwankpa also made unauthorized purchases between 2010 and 2017 and attempted to get reimbursement using research grant funds.
Drexel paid $189,062 to the United States to resolve potential liability under the False Claims Act, according to the United States Justice Department. The U.S. Justice Department added the federal investigation launched in 2017 after Drexel disclosed details of Nwankpa's conduct to the government.
After being confronted by Drexel officials, Nwankpa resigned in 2017 and agreed to pay back $53,328 to the university, ABC Philadelphia reported.
“This is an example of flagrant and audacious fraud, and a shameful misuse of public funds,” U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain told the United States Justice Department. “The agencies providing these grant funds expect them to be used towards advancements in energy and naval technology for public benefit, not for personal entertainment.”
The preliminary hearing for the case is scheduled on Jan. 29, according to The Justice Wire.