A former Purdue University professor and his wife have been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a combined $1.6 million in restitution after pleading guilty to using more that $1 million in federal research funds for their own personal expenses.
A federal judge in Hammond sentenced Qingyou Han, 62, and his wife, Lu Shao, 54, to two years of probation on Monday, the Journal & Courier reported.
Han is a retired mechanical engineering technology professor who had been the director of Purdue’s Center for Materials Processing Research.
The couple pleaded guilty in 2019 to felony charges of wire fraud on behalf of themselves and Shao’s company, Hans Tech of Lakewood, Ohio.
The case stemmed from a July 2018 indictment that outlined a scheme in which the National Science Foundation was defrauded after it put $1.3 million into Hans Tech through the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.
Those programs are used by the NSF to promote the progress of science through innovative small businesses. But federal prosecutors said the couple admitted that the money instead went toward a home in West Lafayette and payments benefitting their school-aged children between 2007 and 2014.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon ordered the couple on Monday to pay a total of $1.6 million in restitution, of which about $1.3 million will go to the National Science Foundation and $300,000 to the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
The state agency had provided Han and Hans Tech with a matching grant of that amount, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Han was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and pay a $25,000 fine.
On Monday, Tim Doty, a Purdue spokesman, said Han retired from the university on Aug. 1, 2020.
In his pre-sentencing letter to the judge, Han wrote that he took full responsibility for his wrongdoing and pleaded for a light sentence so he could continue his research.
“For the past two years, life for me has been very dark. I have felt great humiliation and forced to leave the job that I have loved as a professor at Purdue,” Han wrote. “In my life, I have always worked very hard and tried to do the right thing, but I failed to do that with the NSF grants.”