A Nigerian professor has been arrested and charged in the United States for allegedly stealing $185,000 in research funds.
Chikaodinaka Nwankpa, 57, a former chair of Drexel University’s Engineering Department, spent the funds allocated for research on adult entertainment venues including sports bars, meals, and iTunes purchases, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Larry Krasner announced the arrest and charging of Professor Nwankpa Monday with Theft by Unlawful Taking and Theft by Deception for stealing $185,000 in research grant funds.
An audit by Drexel University found that Nwankpa made multiple, unauthorized, and “no receipt” purchases between 2010 and 2017, for which he attempted to secure reimbursement using research grant funds, the District Attorney’s office stated.
He made more than $96,000 in purchases at adult entertainment venues and sports bars, and more than $89,000 on purchases toward iTunes, meals, and other unauthorized purchases.
Nwankpa attempted to hide adult entertainment expenses by claiming that the items were for catering and food, even though 48% of the 114 separate charges he made were done on weekends, and 63% were processed between the hours of midnight and 2:00 a.m. the District Attorney’s office said.
“Mr. Nwankpa inappropriately and criminally diverted tens of thousands of dollars that were allocated for research purposes toward his own private enjoyment. He betrayed Drexel University and tuition-paying students he was paid to educate,” Krasner said.
“After a comprehensive investigation by our office’s Economic Crimes Unit, Mr. Nwankpa will have his day in court and will have to answer for his crimes. I’d like to thank Drexel University and the Drexel University Police Department for their work throughout this investigation.”
According to Washington Post, Drexel University paid the Justice Department $189,062 to settle allegations of 10 years of improper spending against federal grants from the Department of the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation in October.
Citing the Justice Department, the Post reports that the majority of the money went to Philadelphia-area strip clubs between July 2007 and December 2017.
“This is an example of flagrant and audacious fraud and a shameful misuse of public funds,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in October. “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.”
Nwankpa was arrested by Drexel University Police and released after making payment on a $25,000 bail set by a judge and surrendering his passport. A preliminary hearing for his case is scheduled for January 29, 2020.
If convicted on both charges, Nwankpa could face up to 14 years in prison and pay up to $30,000 in fines.