Georgetown University has sued a nationally prominent former member of its medical faculty and his wife for allegedly defrauding the school of more than $450,000 in connection with hypertension research they conducted.

The suit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, charges Dr. Frank A. Finnerty Jr. and his wife, Frances M. Caputo Finnerty, with fraud, conspiracy, negligence, and breach of contract.

According to the suit, Finnerty and his wife used governmnet funds allocated to Georgetown to help conduct private hypertension projects for which they received outside payments from May 1971, to August 1976.

The National Institute of Health has told Georgetown it is responsible for misspending approximately $500,000 in federal grants, and Georgetown claims in its suit that Finnerty and his wife obtained most of that money by fraud.

A federal grand jury investigated Finnerty's alleged misuse of grant funds, but no criminal charges were brought. Finnerty could not be reached for comment late yesterday afternoon.

The suit claims that while he was on the Georgetown medical faculty, Finnerty entered into contracts with various private drug firms to conduct hypertension studies and used Georgetown's facilities and staff at D.C. General Hospital and at the school's medical center.

Through a firm he founded known as Hypertension Research Associates Inc., Finnerty received more than $600,000 from various private firms for 20 research studies involving the school's facilities, personnel and equipment, the suit claims. Only $100,000 of that money was turned over to the school by Finnerty, the suit added.

Much of the alleged fraud reportedly involved Finnerty's handling of an NIH grant designed to assess the effect of various types of treatments for inner-city hypertension patients, according to the cuit.

The Hypertension Detection and Followup Program (HDFP) was operated by Finnerty for the school, and his wife was his chief assistant for personnel and budget matters, the school said in its suit.

According to an NIH audit of the program and other NIH investigative reports, more than $450,000 of the grant money was used by Finnerty to support his private research studies, the lawsuit continued.

The suit, filed by the firm of Williams and Connolly for the university, said the HDFP funds were "fraudulently diverted" by Finnerty and his wife to their own use. The suit also claims that Finnerty did not follow Georgetown's published guidelines for the handling of private contracts, or follow the school's budgeting procedures.

Finnerty, of 13006 Renfew Cir., Oxon Hill, reportedly now operates a private hypertension medical center in southwest Washington.