A former Penn State University professor and researcher accused of grant fraud has been fined $660,000 and sentenced to nearly three and a half years in prison.
The scientist, Craig Grimes, had received around $1.2 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a test for a childhood disease. Instead, he used it for his solar energy research project and even allocated some of the money for personal use, including a trip to Europe for he and his wife, prosecutors claim.
Grimes also secured a $1.9 million grant for his research by lying to the Department of Energy, saying he had no other government or private funding for that work when he had an additional grant from a science foundation.
Grimes admits his actions were “certainly wrong” but asserts that the work he is doing should not suffer as a consequence. According to Grimes, his research on converting carbon dioxide into energy “could save the world.”
Supporters such as Grimes’ father, who is a professor emeritus at Penn State, and at least 100 colleagues and family members sent letters to federal judge Yvette Kane urging leniency with Grimes. His uncle wrote that he was sure Grimes would win the Nobel Prize.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Terz warned in court that letting Grimes go would compromise the legitimacy of the country’s grant system. “Billions of dollars a year in federal taxpayer money is used to fund research in this country,” he says. “So what’s at stake here is the integrity of this program.”
Terz also stressed that Grimes’ imprisonment would deter other researchers from lying and stealing like Grimes did to get an edge in the competition for those grants. “This is a tragedy,” Terz admits, “but it’s a tragedy of his own doing.”
Kane agrees: “To let such a fraud go unpunished would undermine the integrity of the grant system.” Grimes will begin serving his sentence on January 7th.
Posted December 12th, 2012 under Tech Transfer