UK: Former Professor Misused School and Grant Money

Reported by: Melanie Kendall
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Updated: 8/20 7:06 pm
A former professor at the University of Kentucky is being accused of misusing more than $400,000.

UK said it began looking into the matter last fall when a student complained.

Dr. Dongping “Daniel” Tao, a former mining-engineering professor who was hired by the university in 1996, I accused of fraudulently taking more than $400,000 from the university and private grants.

UK provided this overview of the major findings in the audit:

·  In several instances during the period in question, Dr. Tao created fraudulent invoices for travel, hotels and meals by billing both the university and consulting clients for the same expenses. The audit estimates fraudulent or duplicate invoices totaling more than $62,000.
·  Dr. Tao, according to the audit, also fabricated or changed invoices relating to consulting work during the period in question totaling more than $31,000.
·  The audit found that property, owned by the university, also was charged to a private grant. The cost of "tubes" involved in experiments Dr. Tao was conducting totaled more than $9,300.
·  According to the audit, Dr. Tao required visiting scholars and graduate students, working under his purview, to routinely work on his private consulting activities. Students, according to university records, received no compensation for these activities. These actions were in violation of university policy.
·  Dr. Tao, according to audit findings, also required students to work excessive amounts on these private consulting projects -- rather than university related contracts -- without the appropriate university approvals.
·  University records from the audit indicate that Dr. Tao paid research assistants more than $312,000 from university grants and contracts for work that instead was conducted on behalf of private consulting clients.
·  Based on a complaint from a graduate student, Dr. Tao was questioned by his superiors regarding the appropriate use of graduate students in 2011 and 2012.
·  Dr. Tao denied any inappropriate activity and, based on the available evidence, no further action was recommended. The emails were placed in his personnel file.
 
 “We think the university responded with a comprehensive, aggressive investigation that caught this fraud and put a stop to it,” said Jay Blanton with the University of Kentucky.  “At the same time though we've got to own the fact that we want to look back and see are there gaps in policy and procedures that help incentivize the right kind of behavior at the right time and we're still doing that but we've made some changes.”
 
The university said state and federal agencies are now investigating.
 
UK said Tao resigned last December as a response to the allegations.

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