Indian-American professor convicted of defrauding students

WASHINGTON: An Indian-American professor has been convicted by a federal grand jury of defrauding the US government and students of $700,000 in research grants.

Manoj Jha, a full-time professor at the Morgan State University in Baltimore, 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 10 years in prison for theft of government property.

The sentencing is scheduled for July 11. NSF, a US government agency, supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering.

Jha, 46, has been found guilty of fraudulently obtaining $200,000 in grant funds from NSF’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programme to fund a highway project, and attempting to obtain another $500,000 via the same project.

Federal prosecutors alleged Jha converted the funds to his personal use; Jha made payments on his mortgage and personal credit card and authorised approximately $11,000 in salary payments to his wife, who performed no NSF-related work.

“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 programme and divert taxpayer dollars intended for scientific research to personal use.