February 16, 2010
University of Buffalo Researcher Accused of Hiring Actors to Testify on his Behalf in Misconduct Hearing
The following has nothing to do with securities fraud -- it's just weird. Also, Dr. Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York system, who is credited for cooperating in the investigation, is the former President of my University of Cincinnati:
According to allegations made by New York Attorney General Cuomo, a former University at Buffalo researcher hired professional actors to portray real people who were familiar with his projects to testify on his behalf during a formal misconduct hearing. The researcher, who was exonerated of the misconduct because of the false testimonies, then attempted to seek $4 million from the state for monetary damages.
In September 2004, William Fals-Stewart was accused of scientific misconduct for allegedly fabricating data in federally funded studies he was undertaking as an employee at the University at Buffalo and Research Institute on Addictions. According to court papers, the allegations were based upon discrepancies between the number of volunteers he reported to the National Institute for Drug Addiction relating to grants for which Fals-Stewart was the Principal Investigator, and the actual number of volunteers who participated in his studies.
According to the felony complaint, during a subsequent formal investigation launched by the University, three witnesses testified by telephone because Fals-Stewart claimed they were out of town. In reality, they were actors who thought they were taking part in a mock-trial. Fals-Stewart paid the actors to testify. He also provided them with scripts to use during the proceedings that were riddled with inaccuracies regarding his research. Fals-Stewart told the three actors, who he had hired before for legitimate training videos, that they would be performing in a mock trial training exercise. They were not aware that they were testifying at a real administrative hearing, nor did they know they were impersonating real people. Because of these false testimonies, Fals-Stewart was exonerated at the administrative hearing.
Claiming that the misconduct allegations tarnished his reputation, Fals-Stewart sued the University, seeking $4 million from the state in damages. The Office of the Attorney General, in its role of defending the University and the state in the court action, conducted a thorough investigation of the claims against the University. It was during this investigation that Cuomo’s office discovered the alleged fraud, forced Fals-Stewart to withdraw his lawsuit and initiated a criminal investigation.
Fals-Stewart was arrested today and charged in Buffalo City Court with Attempted Grand Larceny in the First Degree (class C felony); three counts of Perjury in the First Degree (class D felony); three counts of Identity Theft in the First Degree (class D felony); two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (class E felony); and three counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (class E felony). The maximum permissible sentence for a class C felony is 15 years in prison.
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