An engineering professor at Philadelphia’s Drexel University allegedly spent a decade using federal grant money on the city’s strip clubs and sports bars, and the school has agreed to cover his $189,062 tab to the government in order to avoid a lawsuit, the Department of Justice announced Monday.
The alleged misuse of funds was discovered in 2017 when Drexel conducted an internal audit, purportedly finding that Chikaodinaka Nwankpa, who headed the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, had—from 2007 through 2017—submitted receipts for personal iTunes purchases and “goods and services” provided by local establishments such as Cheerleaders, Club Risque, and the Tacony Club.
The 56-year-old was supposed to have used the money on energy, science, and naval research—not “the area’s most beautiful women dancing on five stages.” After the discovery, Nwankpa resigned from his position and paid back $53,328 to Drexel. He has been banned from federal government contracting for six months, according to a DOJ press release.
The Department of Justice said the university agreed to pay the nearly $190,000 settlement in lieu of a lawsuit over its violation of the False Claims Act.
“This is an example of flagrant and audacious fraud, and a shameful misuse of public funds.” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “The agencies providing these grant funds expect them to be used toward advancements in energy and naval technology for public benefit, not for personal entertainment.”
The university voluntarily reported its findings to the federal government and implemented changes intended to prevent similar misconduct in the future, including greater oversight for charge approval and improved auditing policies.
“Drexel takes allegations of unethical or unlawful business conduct on the part of any members of the university community very seriously and remains committed to being in full compliance with all billing regulations and requirements,” university spokesperson Niki Gianakaris told The Philadelphia Inquirer.