Baltimore, Maryland -The federal jury convicted, Manoj Kumar Jha on April 1, 2014 of wire fraud, mail fraud, falsification of records, and theft of government property in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain research grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and kickbacks from students’ stipends. The conviction was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Allison Lerner, Inspector General at the National Science Foundation.
Jha, who was a full time professor at Morgan State University, incorporated Amar Transportation Research and Consulting, Inc. (ATRC) and was its president and only director. He fraudulently obtained $200,000 in grant funds from January 2008 through July 2009 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program to fund a highway project. Jha converted the funds for his personal use, payments on his mortgage and personal credit card as well as authorized approximately $11,000 in salary payments to his wife, who performed no NSF-related work.In 2010, apparently confident, greedy and just stupid, he attempted to up the ante and asked for another $500,000 for the program. To make matters worse Jha had also tricked students who received grants from the U.S. Department of Defense into returning a portion of their stipends ($36,000 total) to him.
The stuff hit the fan, on February 15, 2011, when an investigator with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the NSF sent Jha a letter requesting copies of documents; including a list of all the employees he had been claiming he had working for him on various projects. They also requested copies of the company’s expenditure ledger detailing all budget categories, as part of a proactive OIG review of ATRC’s compliance with laws, regulations, and conditions in connection with the NSF grant. On March 11, 2011, Jha provided, through his attorney false biweekly, signed time sheets purportedly maintained by him. He also provided a copy of ATRC’s expenditure ledger as of September 10, 2009, in which he entered fictitious research expenses in order to conceal the fact that he was using NSF funds for personal use.
“The Small Business Technology Transfer Program supports research performed cooperatively between small businesses and research institutions,” said Allison Lerner, National Science Foundation Inspector General. “This conviction of guilt on seven counts, including obstruction of justice and theft of government property, sends a strong signal to anyone who would seek to defraud this program and divert taxpayer dollars intended for scientific research to personal use. I commend the U.S. Attorney’s office for its strong support in this case.”
Jha faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each of four counts of wire fraud, and for one count each of mail fraud and falsification of records; and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for theft of government property. Jha is scheduled for sentencing on July 11, 2014. We say throw the book at him!