SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico– On November 21, 2018, the United States Government recovered the sum of $1,772,790.00 from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) as part of a settlement agreement reached in connection to claims of misuse of grant funds provided to the UPR by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The investigation revealed that the UPR did not comply with the time and effort reporting requirements of salaries and wages to ensure that payroll for the various grants was correctly and appropriately charged for the 2011 calendar year. The UPR provided various certifications asserting compliance with grant rules, when in fact, their records failed to reconcile the budget amounts reported to NASA, DOE, and NSF. Under the False Claims Act, Title 31, United States Code, Sections 3729, et seq., for the period of the covered conduct, the United States can recover up to three times the amount of loss and civil monetary penalties ranging from $5,500.00 to $11,000.00 per claim, in addition to debarment from future participation in federal funding.
The Office of the Inspector General of NASA, DOE and NSF involved in this investigation are deeply committed to fighting fraud, waste and abuse, and ensuring that federal funding is used for its intended purposes and recipients.
“The NASA Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively investigate any attempt to defraud NASA grants, contracts, and operations,” said NASA Inspector General Paul Martin. “The NASA OIG appreciates the cooperative efforts of the entire investigative and prosecution team during this multi-year investigation and congratulates the team for reaching a final civil settlement in this matter.”
“It is imperative that federal award recipients use grant money appropriately, and that they track and support their award expenditures using effective accounting systems and accurate time and effort reports,” said Allison Lerner, Inspector General of the National Science Foundation. “The NSF Office of Inspector General is committed to vigorously pursuing oversight of taxpayer funds devoted to scientific research and I commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our investigative partners for their strong support in this effort.”
“The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Inspector General is committed to ensuring the integrity of our grant recipients by holding accountable those who choose to engage in false claims and mischarging schemes. This settlement is the result of a joint investigation which protected the government from inflated claims. We appreciate the efforts of the Department of Justice in pursuing this matter and will continue to work collaboratively with our investigative partners to aggressively investigate those who seek to defraud government programs,” said Acting Inspector General April G. Stephenson.
“The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate grant fraud matters on both Criminal and Civil grounds and will aggressively pursue actions against those who submit false claims to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “I commend the hard work and dedication of the Office of Inspector General and the prosecutorial team that handled the case.”
The matter was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David O. Martorani-Dale, Affirmative Civil Enforcement Coordinator, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Hector E. Ramírez-Carbó, Chief of Civil Division.