Former Northwestern researcher settles fraud lawsuit for $475K

Tyler Pager, Breaking News Editor

A former Northwestern research physician will pay the United States $475,000 to settle claims of misusing federal grant money for personal expenses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Dr. Charles Bennett, who worked at NU’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Center for Cancer in Chicago, was accused by a former coworker of submitting false claims for reimbursement for family trips, meals, hotels and consulting fees for his family and friends from Jan. 1, 2003 to Aug. 31, 2010. His brother and cousin, who were paid for consulting fees, were unqualified for the services, according to the lawsuit.

Bennett did not admit liability as part of the settlement.

NU paid $2.93 million in July 2013 to settle claims that the University ignored a whistleblower’s concerns about Bennett. NU also did not admit liability.

“The University was nonetheless disappointed to see the allegations in the complaint because they are at odds with the University’s commitment to a culture of compliance in the administration of federal research grants,” NU spokesman Al Cubbage said in a statement in July 2013. “Northwestern takes its grant administration responsibilities seriously, and fully cooperated with the government’s investigation of these allegations in an effort to demonstrate their inconsistency with its institutional values.”

Melissa Theis, the whistleblower and a former NU employee, initially made the allegations and will receive $80,750 from Bennett’s settlement. Theis previously received $498,100 from NU’s settlement.

The settlement ends the litigation for the suit, but gives any federal agency the authority to suspend Bennett from receiving future research grants.

Bennett must pay the settlement by Dec. 1.

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Previous stories on this topic:

    Lawsuit: Northwestern ‘refused to seriously address’ whistle-blower’s concerns
    Northwestern to pay nearly $ million to settle cancer research fraud lawsuit