The US Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced Monday that Dr. Chikaodinaka D. Nwankpa, the former head of Drexel’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, misused federal grants from the US Department of the Navy, Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation for his own pleasure for nearly a decade before the university caught on to him.
Nwankpa is said to have cooperated with a 2017 investigation that revealed he spent “the majority” of $189,062 in government money between July 2007 and April 2017 on “goods and services” provided by Philadelphia-area sports bar Tacony Club and strip clubs Cheerleaders and Club Risque. He also made a number of personal iTunes transactions using grant funds, according to Drexel’s internal audit of the employee.
“In this case, the flagrant and wrongful misuse of American taxpayers’ funds not only eroded the public trust, but jeopardized the Department of Navy’s efforts to obtain the best technology and research for our brave men and women in uniform,” Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent in Charge Leo S. Lamont stated in the October 7 release.
While the university has agreed to pay back the misappropriated funds in full, the release noted that Nwankpa reimbursed Drexel $53,328 - less than a third of what was spent over the nearly 10-year period.
Furthermore, Drexel allowed Nwankpa, who had been with the university since 1995, to resign instead of terminating his contract, and his federal grant eligibility was blocked for a period of six months. However, he has not been criminally charged.
“This is an example of flagrant and audacious fraud, and a shameful misuse of public funds,” US Attorney William M. McSwain asserted. “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.”
It’s unlikely that Nwankpa’s misuse of funds will impact Drexel’s future contracts, as the US Attorney’s Office applauded the university’s implementation of “changes to prevent similar misconduct in the future,” including a reported improvement to its policies on charge approval and auditing.