Climate Change Fraudsters Go To Jail

Pair was allegedly pocketing the money given by NASA for their startup instead of paying graduate students to do the work

From AP and web reports:


Professor, Wife Sentenced After Defrauding NASA

The duo told NASA that their startup company would develop a cutting-edge sensor used to track climate change. Instead, prosecutors alleged, they used the company to funnel money to themselves.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A university professor in Pennsylvania has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison on a conviction of defrauding NASA by letting graduate students and researchers do all the work on a $700,000 project.

U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III also ordered Yujie Ding on Wednesday to pay a fine of $3,000 and restitution of $72,000. His wife, Yuliya Zotova, was sentenced to three months in prison.

Authorities said the Lehigh University engineering professor and his wife told NASA that their startup company ArkLight would develop a cutting-edge sensor used to track climate change. Instead, prosecutors alleged, they used the company “as a front to funnel federal grant money to themselves for research performed by students and others.”

Jurors convicting the couple of six of 10 fraud counts.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/a827b865066d491b8095605e6f5ee0ea/professor-wife-sentenced-convictions-defrauding-nasa


According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, from August 2009 through July 2010, the pair submitted proposals to NASA seeking research funding by claiming that their business, ArkLight, was doing research and subcontracting work to Lehigh University where Ding was a professor.

Instead, an investigation found that the pair used ArkLight “as a front to funnel federal grant money to themselves for research performed by students and others working under Ding’s supervision at his university lab.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the defendants sent invoices to NASA for research that, a jury found, ArkLight had not participated in.

http://www.phillyvoice.com/lehigh-university-professor-wife-sentenced-scheme-defraud-nasa/


Here is the Federal Indictment: federal_indictment_ding_zotova (PDF)

h/t to WUWT reader “average joe”

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101 thoughts on “Climate Change Fraudsters Go To Jail

    • Which part of “a fine of $3,000 and restitution of $72,000 ” are you having trouble understanding?

      Seems like they were allowed to pay the fine out of their ill-gotten gains, but the year and a day behind bars seems like a hit. Are you sure you want to play?

      • This looks like a first for some accountability being applied to fraudulent researchers. Let’s hope it is the first of many.

      • With good behavior that would equate to 6 months for $625,000 net gain. Like being paid $100,000 a month to fill a jail cell for 1/2 year

      • Well I can understand both of those and the jail time too.

        So I steal your wallet with 700,000 in it, but after you cry about it, I hand you back $3000, and then because you are still crying, I give you back another $72,000, leaves me with only $625,000 to put into a retirement investment portfolio, but I have to take a year sabbatical; well plus a day.

        OK so I’m a felon now, but I haven’t been much of a voter up to now anyway. Haven’t even bought my gun yet anyway.

        Now if the 75 Gs went on top of having to return the 700K ( THAT’s called restitution), well I would have to give it some more thought, as now it is looking like a non winning strategy.

        G

      • My understanding (I’m not a lawyer) is a Federal sentence must be served in full…and “a year and a day” means he goes to prison, not jail.

      • From the articles they were paying the grad students plus the university was getting its cut. The question is, if they had been acting honestly how much of the $700,000 would they have been entitled to. Next did they deliver on the product, did they come up with a real sensor ? To put it simply did they just steal $73.000?
        They were allowed a salary, so did all their tangled webs gain them a mere $73,000?
        Me thinks they need Hillary lessons on how to steal.

        michael

      • Doesn’t the US Govt have the power to confiscate assets from criminal activity in fraud cases, like they can do in other types of cases?

      • Come on guys use your noggin.

        The graduate students and researchers were most likely paid for their work. Those convicted would only be required to pay restitution for any unjust enrichment to themselves.

      • It’s a bit like forgetting to declare your earnings from illegal gambling, and paying the taxes owed.

        g

    • I expect the balance went to legal fees, it is the lawyers who make the most gain out of cagw after all.

      • I often though that the lawyers should be treated as and paid as a member of the class WRT Class Action lawsuits. No more $300,000,000 for the lawyer and split $600,000,000 among 6,000,000 class members ($100 each) Nope, the lawyers only get an equal share of the class.

    • Should have chipped off 10% to the Clinton Foundation. The DOJ would have run interference and the FBI would have said they were “extremely careless” but there was no proof they intended to break any laws.

    • That’s a Federal felony, so its automaticaly bye-bye security clearance and any chance of ever working on a federally funded project. He might not be allowed in the same department as any classified or classifiable project. Pretty much career over.

      • A former student of mine got a job with a company that, in addition to its other work, had some defense contracts. He told me some of the hoops they had to jump through. You know all those equal opportunity laws. They don’t seem to count for defense contracts. It seemed like if all your grandparents weren’t born in America or Canada you wouldn’t get a security clearance in time to work on the project.

      • Federal crimes ain’t what they used to be. Hilary is running for president, when she should be disqualified just based on her handling of classified materials. And Democrats have been giving voting rights back to Felons for years. I would not be surprised if the “prison” even works out into something harmless and stupid. Minimum security, tennis courts etc.

    • I would imagine that the grant hadn’t been paid to the plaintiff(s) directly, but to the institution. The institution kept the grant and continued work. The fine, restitution, and legal fees would all fall on the plaintiff(s).

      • Doubt they let him pay his legal fees out of the grant money. Just guessing, $700,000 project, $628,000 to Lehigh, $72,000 to professor. He pays fine of $3,000, whatever his legal fees are, and $72,000 in restitution.

  1. What was the name of one of the RICO20 that set up a company (with wife and daughter) to milk grants? Have they been referred for investigation?

    • The last time this happened ( that I researched around the Shukla affair) was NIH funding, about $780k over 2 years. The perp had to pay full restitution plus 4.5 years in federal prison. For failure to supervise, the university was cut off from all NIH grants for two years.
      AFAIK, nothing has happened yet to either Shukla or GMU.

  2. I’m surprised they got caught. Must have been extremely careless or somebody ratted them out. The amount of dollars that flow out per year through Federal Grants is in the tens of billions and $700K is a rounding error (if that).

    We once had a meeting at the US Government Printing Office and one of the GPO people said if we submitted an invoice for less than $20K, it would be paid and probably never followed up on. Wasn’t worth their time.

    • This is one of the reasons purchase orders are required – the spending “approval” is obtained before the actual order is placed. Theoretically, after the order is invoiced, all that’s required is acceptance of the work/material by the receiving customer.

      System can still be gamed, but it’s not quite as easy as sending in a $19,999.99 invoice.

    • No. Rent seeking is simply following what the current political will is trying to promote. That is neither illegal nor immoral. If you don’t like it, take it up with you elected representatives.

      Fraud is a serious criminal offence and goes well beyond following the legitimate incentives offered.

      eg. Peter Glieck did not need to pretend to be an associate member of Heartland and commit what amounts to wire fraud and identity theft to get copies of documents he was not entitled to receive. Neither was he obliged to fabricate a document and claim it originated from Heartland.

      • if you drop the context, what you say is irrefutable. (hint: that’s what dropping the context is all about)
        i just closed my eyes, chewed and swallowed. that’s the essence of innocence.
        ‘i was just taking part in the cannibals’ feast – i didn’t cook it so i’m not responsible for any harm’
        oh, well. some of us know where this ends up.

  3. I got a little excited there when I read “A university professor in Pennsylvania has been sentenced to a year and a day in priso” while skimming…

    But this is good too.

  4. “cutting-edge sensor used to track climate change”

    His bio has: “Ding has done pioneering work on THz generation, amplification, and applications; compact and portable THz sources; frequency up-conversion for single-photon detection; backward parametric processes and devices; exploitation of polariton resonances for efficient generation of mid-IR and far-IR waves; and field-induced effect, hot-photon effect, and removal of hot phonons in nitride heterostructures. ”

    Is this impressive? Are hot phonons really a thing?

  5. “sensor used to track climate change”

    I’d love to read their description of what THAT would look like and how it would work.

    I generally enjoy fiction.

    • It was probably a thermometer that had a scale that could be calibrated, on the fly, by the end-user.

    • Research on mechanisms and technologies that can be used to engineer climate change to create micro-climates that would support agriculture in desert climates.

  6. I’m having trouble with the “cutting-edge sensor used to track climate change”. What exactly would that be?

  7. Just the name of the project should have rung a bell or two. It just shows the desperation in the holy order to simply buy something to put scepticism to rest. Reminds me of a family story. My grandfather was a homesteader in western Manitoba and he recounted that a salesman came through the region selling “Instant Death to Potato Beetles” in a paper wrapped box with the notice on it that cautioned not to open the box before the beetles were on the plants. My grandfather told us that when he opened it, there were two wooden blocks, number one with an oval drawn on it and the instruction: Put the beetle on block number one and squeeze down with block number two. Apparently, no one in the region mentioned they had bought the product. If I were defending the AGW case, I would charge that my client was being discriminated against because everyone working in this science has defrauded the government in one way or another – the government just didn’t want to talk about this.

    • mark twain, the royal nonesuch:
      ‘After advertising for a spectacular performance, the con men actually put on a short, slightly funny, show. The residents of the town are unhappy that the show was short in duration , however, because they are upset at the possibility of losing face, the first night’s crowd reports to their friends that the show was fantastic, resulting in an even larger crowd the second night. On the third night, the Nonesuch draws its largest crowd yet, as most of the previous two nights’ attendees return, armed with vegetables and other items to throw at the performers in revenge. After selling tickets to the third night’s crowd, the Duke and Dauphin flee, in a much richer state financially than they were before the Nonesuch.’

      it’s still day 2

  8. I always enjoy being really intelligent, superior and sneering at other folks. Who needs sugar and other drugs when you’ve got that? Especially easy when you know what ‘climate’ is and understand how freezing cold objects, like the sky, can warm up warm objects, like the land & ocean.

    So come on then, let’s hear it – what would YOU use as a sensor to measure climate change?

    Gets you thinking?

    Me myself would use an ordinary digital voltmeter and pair of stainless steel probes, maybe 18″ long.
    Poke them into the ground about 18″ apart (use one of them to get that) and record the dc resistance it sees.
    In my book, climate is all about water and dirt, especially how much of the former is in the latter.
    Maybe it might need a pH correction to be really accurate but for starters it’ll do.

    • Thanks for the correction, but what did the taxpayers get for the other $628,000? I suspect the entire proposal was a fraud because the folks in the government have the mission of handing out $$$ for an agenda without a vetting process to determine if the project has any merit. I ask myself what has the DOE accomplished in terms of viable technology to provide contribution to our energy needs? Let’s measure how many BTU’s per dollar spent. In the 80’s they pushed coal gasification and liquification and I worked on several technically successful projects, now they are shutting down coal.

  9. Mods, did I say something wrong? I did use the no no word ‘fraud’ but heck, wasn’t that the subject of the post?

  10. It looked to me like they were paid to get research done and they got it done, and the FedGov is screaming fraud over exactly how matters were organized.

    I think the pair are patsies, strung up to look like the Justice system is doing its duty and thereby allowing the real fraudsters, such as Mann and many others, get away with it.

  11. Which part of research funding did you idiots not understand? I read this site because among the few who make an attempt to publish science you at least have, in the past. made an attempt.

    If any of you morons think grants are applied for by undergraduates and consumed directly by PIs you have NO CLUE AT ALL about how science works.

    You should be ashamed.

    • “grants .. are consumed directly by PIs” consumed?

      ‘you have no clue at all about how science works” wtf? if you are backing this person say so

      “you should be ashamed” sounds kind of religious

      • Yes, consumed. PIs (Principal Investigators) typically direct the the funds they are granted. No one else has that authority. It’s completely absurd to think anyone else would.

        I won’t defend the idea that NASA should have ever funded a climate research project like the one described, but seriously? If they funded it at all it would be under the direction of the PI. This is a stupid article. Sorry. Can’t fix it. Dumb as a box of rocks.

      • BTW, “you should be ashamed” is ethical, not “religious”.

        “What is right Phaedrus, and what is wrong? Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

        – Plato

      • Should be : What is right Phaedrus, and what is not right? Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

        That’s a quote, actually the forward and primary message from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig. If you haven’t read it yet, read it five times and get back to me?

        Honestly, in a truly heartfelt sense, I hope you will take the time to read Robert’s book. You won’t be disappointed.

      • Charlie: yes; I’m on something. Its called “reality” or “the way shit works”.

        PIs write grant applications. When they’re funded they use the money to pay grads and post-grads. That’s how science gets done in the good ‘ol USA. Sorry if I burst a bubble?

      • Perhaps the author meant to write the opinion differently? It reads:

        “Instead, an investigation found that the pair used ArkLight “as a front to funnel federal grant money to themselves for research performed by students and others working under Ding’s supervision at his university lab.””

        Now then; I read this as:

        – Ding & wife applied for a federal grant to perform research.
        – They had a lab at a university and a company named ArkLight.
        – They used the money to fund research performed by themselves,
        students (and others) working under Ding’s supervision at his university
        lab.

        Unless the author of that paragraph meant something completely different, that’s exactly how all research funding in the US (an most of the RoW) is performed. It’s indistinguishable from common practice.

    • On various papers it seems to me that students A, B, C and D were doing the work under the supervision of Professor X. So this results in four papers dealing with different aspects of the study, all slightly different so as not to be accused of publishing duplicates, and the authors are various quoted as X, A, B, C, D; X, B, C, D, A; X, C, D, A, B and X, D, A, B, C. This gives four accepted papers for each of the students which they can add to their CVs, while X takes credit for the lot. He has to take first place, because if he was not listed first nobody would ever read the papers. Fraud? Possibly. Depends on the particular contract if the research is being done on a contract basis. If it is a grant, then unless someone has specified the details of the grant so as to prevent this process (and who in the scientific community would ever do that?), – as the saying goes – all is fair in love and scientific publishing.

    • Indeed Bartleby is right, that is how grant applications work, I’ve written many of them myself.
      Usually an agency puts out a call for proposals on a particular topic.
      If you think you can make a contribution you prepare a proposal outlining your plans with appropriate references etc. Then you prepare a budget, usually with the help of your department administrators, detailing consumable costs, salaries (% to be paid, to whom, when etc.), as a faculty member you can usually put some portion of your salary only for the summer months when you are not teaching. This proposal usually goes to your department chair for approval, then to the Dean of the School (say Engineering) then finally to the University Research Grants and Contracts for final approval. All those entities sign the proposal and it’s transmitted to the agency. Assuming you get the grant the money has to be spent according to the proposal, significant changes have to be proposed to the grant awarding body for approval.
      What happened in this case is not uncommon, someone thinks he can make money out of his research grants (you really can’t in the procedure I outlined above). What they do is set up a private company usually with their wife as the owner, apply for grants outside the University through that company and skim money off the top. This is usually country to the University’s Conflict of Interest regulations and when discovered is grounds for dismissal, I have personal knowledge of one case and the very distinguished professor’s career went down the tubes! I gave evidence about 15 years ago in an enquiry by NASA into an SBIR grant case (like the one cited here except the company owner wasn’t faculty). It was very similar, his proposal said that he would hire certain staff to do the work and pay them a certain amount, instead he paid himself and didn’t do the work. He just used the work that we were contracted to do (and did) and made up his contribution, a whistleblower reported him! The sentence was 12 months home confinement, 5 years probation and repayment of $1.4million to the government.
      Murry Salby was found guilty of a similar misconduct while at the University of Colorado in connection with NSF grants by the NSF Office of Inspector General.

  12. (y)

    $700,000 is a small sum. But, with 100,000 funded NSF bogus projects, the total cums to $1 x 10^10 or $10 Billion Dollars.

    If Obama gets a 10% finders fee, he gets $1 Billion Dollars to take to Kenya where he will marry Malia and Sasha.

    Poor Michelle, Michael before the “conversion” chemical therapy and surgery, will be left homeless in Chicago.

    Ha ha

  13. How does that work, a “detector for climate change”. Is it something like: a guy walks through a field with a V-shaped piece of would and “feels” the Earth’s vibrations?

  14. In my opinion stealing and squandering the money was more honest than what most recipients of ‘climate’ funds do. At least these two were not producing insane propaganda and feeding it to schoolchildren.

  15. Old Prof AA
    The reason they thought they could get away with it (and dammit to a large extent they did) is because its a bullshit field and anything you turn out is just as useful (spelled useless) as any other that’s coming down the turnpike. As a retired research professor I should be furious, but I got over furious twenty years ago. The academic world in nearly all disciplines is now being occupied by people with no real sense of history , no sense of the philosophical weaknesses of their work (assuming some of them could spell a word like that) and who find no dignity in the search for truth. Any piece of merde is just as good as any other.
    With such mentors we can only hope against hope that a newer generation will be more filled with a commitment to the truth and to the dignity of work, that is well done, however modest.
    It is unlikely that I shall see it, but you may. If so encourage it with all your might. We are on the cusp of losing our civilization. No this is not simply the carping of an old man. Almost anyone who has any insight and It’s going tomb a wisdom at present sees the same thing.
    It’s going to be an uphill fight brothers and sisters, but the fight for Truth is always a good thing, though in the final analysis there may be no victory. Surely it is better to fight the barbarians and ignoramuses than to meekly capitulate.

  16. What’s a “climate change sensor” anyway? A weather vane? A thermometer? A barometer perhaps? That would be like asking for grant money to invent a “sensor” to detect the phases of the Moon (ie., a telescope). Nice try though.

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