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Philly professor spent $189K in federal dollars, including Navy grants, on strip clubs, bars

By NELSON OLIVEIRA | New York Daily News | Published: October 8, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Drexel university in Philadelphia has agreed to return nearly $190,000 in federal funds after a former department head admitted to spending the money on “gentlemen’s clubs,” sports bars and iTunes purchases in a brazen fraud scheme that lasted about 10 years, authorities said.

Chikaodinaka Nwankpa, who led Drexel University’s computer engineering department, submitted the charges as “goods and services” between 2007 and 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Monday.

The funds were supposed to be used for energy and naval technology research and had come from the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, according to the release. The misspending was discovered during a 2017 internal audit, which the school shared with the government.

“This is an example of flagrant and audacious fraud, and a shameful misuse of public funds,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in a statement. “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.”

In its release, the Justice Department listed the total amount Drexel must repay as $189,062.

Nwankpa has not been criminally charged, but he repaid about $53,000 to Drexel, resigned from his position and was banned from federal government contracting for six months, authorities said.

The university said in an emailed statement that it has since developed new internal and external auditing controls and procedures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“Drexel takes allegations of unethical or unlawful business conduct on the part of any members of the university community very seriously and remains committed to being in full compliance with all billing regulations and requirements,” the statement reads.

McSwain thanked the university for cooperating with the investigation, but he said he was “disappointed” that the scheme went unnoticed for a whole decade.

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