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Prosecutor: Professor spent federal grants at strip clubs

PHILADELPHIA — A former university professor in Philadelphia spent federal grant money on strip clubs and other personal expenses, prosecutors said Monday.

Chika Nwankpa misappropriated grant money from the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation over a period of 10 years, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Drexel University discovered the alleged fraud in 2017 during an internal audit and alerted the government.

Most of the money was spent on strip clubs and sports bars in the Philadelphia area, according to a news release.

“This is an example of flagrant and audacious fraud, and a shameful misuse of public funds.” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “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.”

McSwain lauded Drexel for reporting the matter but expressed disappointment that Nwankpa’s conduct “went unnoticed for so long.”

Drexel has agreed to pay $189,000 to resolve its potential civil liability in the case. The university said in a statement that it takes “allegations of unethical or unlawful business conduct … very seriously,” adding that it has improved its auditing controls.

Nwankpa repaid more than $53,000, resigned from Drexel and was barred from federal contracting for six months, prosecutors said. He has not been charged with a crime.

A message seeking comment was left at a number for Nwankpa, who worked at Drexel for 27 years until his 2017 resignation. An online profile for Nwankpa said he is self-employed as an engineering consultant.

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