A former Drexel University professor and department chair was arrested and freed on bail this week after months of investigations that came following theft allegations released in October.
Ex-professor Chikaodinaka D. Nwankpa, 57, who allegedly spent thousands of dollars in research funds for personal use, was arrested by university police last week, according to CNN. Nwankpa was released following a court appearance on a $25,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29.
Nwankpa was charged with theft by unlawful taking and theft by deception, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Both charges of theft are felonies.
Nwankpa dragged Drexel’s name into national headlines the week of Oct. 7, when theft and improper spending allegations were leveled against him. The accusations came after an internal audit by the University revealed a large number of suspicious purchases.
“Mr. Nwankpa inappropriately and criminally diverted tens of thousands of dollars that were allocated for research purposes toward his own private enjoyment,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said.
Following Drexel’s internal audit conducted in 2017 and subsequent investigations, Nwankpa was accused of racking up nearly $190,000 in charges for personal use at adult entertainment clubs and for online purchases. The money is said to have come from federal research grants awarded to the University.
“The funds [Nwankpa] used came from eight federal grants related to energy and naval technology research, awarded by the Department of the Navy, Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation,” according to an article published by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Nwankpa spent over $96,000 at gentlemen’s clubs and sports bars throughout the Philadelphia-area and over $89,000 on online iTunes purchases and meals. The earliest purchases began in July 2007 and continued until April 2017, around the time of the internal audit, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The District Attorney’s Office said Nwankpa attempted to hide the charges by listing them as catering and food items. It also said that the majority of the charges were placed between midnight and 2 a.m.
Following the allegations against him in October, Nwankpa was immediately placed on administrative leave from his position as head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department in the College of Engineering. He resigned shortly after.
An Oct. 8 article published by CNN said that Drexel agreed to repay the amount of $190,000 to resolve potential false claims, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. To date, Nwankpa has repaid $53,328 to Drexel, prosecutors said, but the University has taken the hit for the rest.
“Drexel takes allegations of unethical or unlawful business conduct on the part of any members of the University community very seriously,” Niki Gianakaris, Drexel’s Executive Director of Media Relations, said in a statement. “The University initially reported this situation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and has worked cooperatively with federal and state investigations into the matter.”
The University says it has since developed new internal and external auditing controls to more closely monitor spending of grant money and prevent improper use of funds.