Thursday, March 28, 2019

Former University of New Hampshire Employee Sentenced for Stealing Government Funds

          CONCORD -  Jichun Zhang, 47, of Durham, was sentenced to two years of probation for stealing money from federal research grants, announced United States Attorney Scott W. Murray.

          According to court documents and statements made in court, Zhang was a former Research Associate Professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space (EOS).  Zhang was authorized to use a credit card provided by UNH to pay for expenses covered by federal research grants that were awarded to UNH by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

          On 31 separate occasions from January 2016 to December 2017, Zhang used the credit card to purchase items totaling more than $6,900 from, e-Bay, and Apple, Inc., for his personal benefit.  For each such transaction, Zhang submitted a fictitious receipt and a fraudulent written justification for the expense to UNH.  The bogus documents caused the University System of New Hampshire to make payments on the credit card and obtain reimbursement for the unauthorized expenses from the NASA grants.

          Zhang previously pleaded guilty to this felony offense on December 13, 2018.  Zhang already has paid the full amount of restitution in this matter.

          “When federal funds are used for research grants, the taxpayers rightly expect that their money will be used appropriately,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.  “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to protect federal funds from being stolen or misused.” 

          “Mr. Zhang knowingly and willfully abused his position of trust to steal federal funds that should have been spent on important research funded by NASA. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will continue to do everything we can to identify and bring to justice others like him who fraudulently misuse government money to line their own pockets,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division.

          “This investigation exposed an individual that used federal funds to advance his own personal gain.  I commend the outstanding efforts of our agents, the University, and other law enforcement agencies involved in protecting the integrity of federal research grants and contracts,” said Curtis Vaughn, Special Agent in Charge of NASA’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations.

          The case was investigated by the UNH Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Police Departments in Durham, Nottingham, and Newmarket, New Hampshire.  It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert M. Kinsella.

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