Drexel University paid the United States nearly $190,000 after a former professor at the school allegedly used federal grant money for visits to Philadelphia strip clubs and sports bars.
Dr. Chikaodinaka D. Nwankpa, the head of Drexel’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is accused of submitting improper charges against federal grants over a 10-year period.
The investigation began in 2017 after Drexel voluntarily disclosed improper charges to eight federal grants for energy and naval technology-related research it received from the Department of the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
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After an internal audit in 2017, Drexel discovered Nwankpa used the federal grant money to make personal iTunes purchases as well as for “goods and services” at Cheerleaders, Club Risque and Tacony Club between July 2007 and April 2017, investigators said.
Drexel cooperated with the federal investigation. Nwankpa repaid $53,328 to the university, resigned in lieu of termination and was debarred from federal government contracting for six months, according to officials.
“This is an example of flagrant and audacious fraud, and a shameful misuse of public funds,” United States Attorney William McSwain said. “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.”
Drexel implemented changes to prevent any future misconduct, including improvements to its charge approval and auditing policies, officials said. The university also agreed to pay the United States $189,062 to resolve potential liability under the False Claims Act.
“We appreciate Drexel’s self-disclosure and cooperation in this matter,” McSwain said. “At the same time, we are disappointed that Dr. Nwankpa’s conduct went unnoticed for so long, but Drexel’s strengthening of its charge approval process is certainly a step in the right direction.”