A married couple employed by the University of Oklahoma has pleaded guilty to making false statements and using false documents to cover up their misuse of up to $2 million in federal research funds, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Juan Lu, an affiliate research scientist, and her husband Shaorong Liu (pictured below), a faculty member with the OU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, admitted to using a lucrative grant program from the U.S. Department of Energy on lavish spending for themselves.
According to court documents, Liu and Lu controlled a company called MicroChem Solutions, which they used to apply for federal grant monies from the Small Business Technology Transfer Program of the Department of Energy. But the couple used the funds to pay off $213,000 in credit card bills, and further spent $37,448 in research funds for a vehicle and trips around the world. Other funds were used for medical bills, clothing, dining and entertainment.
Lu and Liu each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a potential fine of $250,000.
“The mission of the grant program was to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy,” the Department of Justice said in a statement. “Liu and Lu spent this grant money on matters unrelated to the purpose of the grant funding, including on personal expenses. Additionally, Liu and Lu made false statements and submitted altered documents to the Department of Energy regarding how they spent grant money.”
“OU takes this matter involving Shaorong Liu as a serious concern,” OU spokeswoman Kesha Keith said in a statement following the guilty plea. “Dr. Liu is a tenured professor, currently on administrative leave. The university has cooperated fully with federal authorities and will proceed as appropriate.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Will Farrior and Matt Dillon.