Georgia Tech prof investigated for embezzlement, misappropriation

The Georgia Attorney General’s Office has asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to conduct another criminal investigation into a Georgia Tech employee. This time, a professor in the College of Architecture is being investigated for misappropriation of funds or theft by taking, which is Georgia’s term for embezzlement. The man denies doing anything wrong, saying the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. He is cooperating fully with the investigation.

In the past two years, the Attorney General has initiated at least six separate investigations into Georgia Tech employees, all involving white collar crimes. In September, a professor and two other employees of the school’s Georgia Electronic Design Center were charged with racketeering in an alleged scheme to funnel school funds to a microchip company they founded for the purpose. Others have been accused of misusing state purchasing cards.

In this case, the investigation involves the professor’s reimbursement claims for travel expenses.

Embezzlement, legitimate business expenses, or internal accounting issue?

“It has to do with misappropriation of funds that were designated to maybe other areas,” said GBI spokesman John Bankhead told WSB-TV.

According to WSB-TV sources, the professor’s travel bills rose and fell significantly between 2007 and 2010, which raised red flags. In 2006, he submitted $14,883 in travel reimbursement claims. In 2007, his expenses went up to $20,153, and then nearly doubled for 2008 and 2009, when he submitted reimbursement requests for $44,130 and $44,278, respectively. In 2010, his expenses were back down to $13,995.

The professor insists that all of the expenses are legitimate, spent for travel to job-related seminars and other business trips. WSB-TV did not elaborate on Bankhead’s comments, which may indicate that the bills were paid from incorrect accounts, or that other internal accounting matters may be at issue.

The architecture professor headed up Georgia Tech’s building construction program before stepping down last year, and no problems have been reported with that program.

GBI denies any systemic problems at, or special focus on, Georgia Tech

When questioned about the number of investigations into Georgia Tech employees, Senior Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin said that it may simply reflect that Georgia Tech’s internal reporting systems are effective.

“Well they’ve been good at that. I think every case we’ve opened over there was a result of their finding out about the problem,” Bankhead confirmed. Still, “we have been at Georgia Tech more than I guess we should have,” he admitted.

The GBI is nearly finished with its investigation into the architecture professor’s travel expenses and will forward its report to the Attorney General’s Office soon for a decision on whether he will be prosecuted.

Source: WSB-TV Atlanta, “Another Georgia Tech Professor Under Criminal Investigation,” March 2, 2011