Northwestern University settles in cancer research grant fraud case

July 30, 2013 at 5:23 PM

CHICAGO, July 30 (UPI) -- Northwestern University will pay $2.93 million to settle claims of cancer research grant fraud by a former researcher at the university, U.S. officials say.

Northwestern agreed to the settlement in a federal False Claims Act lawsuit after the government investigated the claims made by a former employee and whistle-blower who will receive a portion of the settlement, a Department of Justice release said Tuesday.

Northwestern allegedly allowed one of its researchers, Dr. Charles L. Bennett, formerly of the university's Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Center for Cancer in Chicago, to submit false claims under research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the release said.

The settlement covers improper claims the Justice Department determined Bennett submitted for reimbursement from the federal grants for professional and consulting services, subcontracts, food, hotels, travel and other expenses from Jan. 1, 2003, through Aug. 31, 2010.

"Allowing researchers to use federal grant money to pay for personal travel, hotels and meals, and to hire unqualified friends and relatives as 'consultants' violates the public trust and federal law," U.S. Attorney Gary S. Shapiro said.

Northwestern, which fully cooperated during the investigation, did not admit liability as part of the settlement.

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