Federal prosecutors have charged a leading materials scientist with wire fraud, making false statements, and money laundering. The researcher, Craig A. Grimes, formerly an electrical engineering professor at Pennsylvania State University, defrauded federal agencies of some $3 million in research grants, the prosecutors say.
Grimes was perhaps best known for his lab’s 2009 discovery that titanium dioxide nanotubes, when hit by sunlight, can turn carbon dioxide into methane, a process that he said could be used as a source of energy (Nano Lett., DOI: 10.1021/nl803258p). He ranked 25th in a list of the world’s top 100 materials scientists compiled by Science Watch in 2011.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania accused Grimes on Jan. 31 of misusing $1.2 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and of falsifying information when applying for a $1.9 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). If convicted, he could face up to 35 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000.
NIH notified Penn State on June 18, 2010, that they were investigating Grimes’s use of his NIH award, according to a university spokeswoman.
Prosecutors say Grimes’s NIH grant was intended to fund the development of a blood test for necrotizing enterocolitis in infants at his solely owned company, SentechBiomed. Grimes was to have given approximately $500,000 of the grant money to Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center. Instead, the U.S. Attorney’s Office claims, “the grant funds were misappropriated, in part, by Grimes for his own use. The clinical studies/trials were not performed.”
Prosecutors also say Grimes applied for and accepted an ARPA-E grant for his solar work, while failing to disclose that the National Science Foundation had already funded the same research. Both agencies prohibit such grant duplication.
Penn State fired Grimes on Dec. 31, 2010, and the university reimbursed NIH for Grimes’s misused funds, according to the spokeswoman.
Although the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office states that Grimes is a resident of Raleigh, N.C., Grimes himself, in recent publications, has listed his affiliation as China’s Nanjing University of Technology.