A Lehigh electrical and computer engineering professor has been charged with fraud after allegedly pocketing $300,000 in federal grant money meant for a NASA research project, according to The Morning Call.
Yujie Ding, who has been a professor at Lehigh since 2002, applied for a grant $600,000 to fund his research project to develop and build a photon detector. Ding received these funds from NASA.
According to The Morning Call, half of the $600,000 grant was meant to go to Lehigh administration to cover the cost of tuition for graduate students to perform research and for equipment. The remaining $300,000 was meant for a company that was supposed to be helping Ding with the research called ArkLight, which was owned by Ding’s wife, Yuliya Zotova.
The original intent of the project was to have Lehigh do half of the work and ArkLight do the other half. According to The Morning Call, investigators later learned that this company had no employees besides Ding and Zotova, no equipment and had done none of the research. ArkLight was only a shell company under Zotova’s name, while the research was actually conducted by a graduate student at Lehigh.
The graduate student told investigators that only he and the professor had worked on the detector and sent it to NASA. He had never heard of Zotova or ArkLight until Ding added them to a research paper he had written, according to The Morning Call.
A complaint was filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia against Ding. He was then arrested the day after and freed on $50,000 bail.
Ding was preparing to flee the United States for Reykjavik, Iceland, when NASA special agent Erik J. Saracino arrested him, says The Morning Call.
The complaint alleges that Ding also committed wire fraud when he signed in with his NASA credentials to transmit a $70,000 bill from a Pennsylvania computer to one at NASA in Virginia.
Neither Zotova nor Lehigh were charged with crimes.