George Washington University has agreed to a $1.8 million settlement with the Justice Department to resolve a federal investigation of a professor who has admitted stealing government research funds.
The professor, Nabih E. Bedewi, pleaded guilty last week to a federal theft charge, clearing the way for the settlement, which was announced yesterday by the U.S. attorney's office in the District. The university, which was not charged with a crime, admitted no liability in agreeing to the financial terms.
Nabih E. Bedewi, a former George Washington University professor, pleaded guilty to stealing government research funds.
(1997 Photo The Washington Post)
Bedewi, 41, directed the National Crash Analysis Center, a research facility in Virginia run jointly by the university and U.S. Department of Transportation, and he used his position to steal money during a four-year period ending in July, according to prosecutors.
The center used federal money to run crash tests at a facility in Langley and at a new test site at the university's Ashburn campus. Prosecutors said Bedewi filed claims for what turned out to be nonexistent expenses, with the money going to companies that he secretly controlled. In addition, he used federal money to pay unauthorized stipends to graduate students and to provide unauthorized scholarships to the spouses of GWU employees.
Government investigators ultimately identified nearly $2 million in federal and university funds that were lost through fraud and other financial irregularities, and the university said it has taken steps to improve its auditing.
Prosecutors and GWU officials said the university identified the suspicious financial charges by Bedewi and brought them to the government's attention. The university itself lost nearly $200,000 in the scam, authorities said.
Under the $1.8 million agreement, the university will pay $659,000 to the federal government and will credit almost $1.2 million to the Federal Highway Administration, one of the partners in the crash center.
Bedewi, an engineer from Reston, admitted in his guilty plea to stealing more than $900,000 -- an amount authorities said could be clearly shown to be missing through criminal intent. He is to be sentenced June 29 in U.S. District Court in Washington. Federal guidelines call for a prison term of about three to four years.
As part of his guilty plea, Bedewi is required to pay restitution to the university and the government, according to a statement issued by GWU officials. He resigned in June after the allegations surfaced.
Donald Lehman, GWU's executive vice president for academic affairs, said the university was "greatly saddened" by Bedewi's actions. In a statement issued last week, after the guilty plea, Lehman said, "It is unfortunate that he chose the means he did to achieve personal ambitions and financial gain."
Tracy Schario, a GWU spokeswoman, said that after the scandal, the university had examined its system of internal controls over research projects such as the one for which Bedewi was the principal investigator.
"We're just working to make improvements to those processes so that we can make sure that this doesn't happen again," she said.