University of Houston Professors Charged with Wire Fraud
Abdelhak Bensaoula and David Starikov, both professors in the University of Houston’s physics department, turned themselves in to federal authorities on Monday morning. The two men have been charged in a 29-count indictment alleging one count of conspiracy, seven counts of making false statements, and 21 counts of wire fraud in connection to getting federal funds for research grants
According to the indictment, Bensaoula, 57, and Starikov, 58, started Integrated Micro Sensors Inc. (IMS), a small business which applied for and received SBIR grants or contracts from NASA, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and the United States Air Force. The defendants are accused of making false statements on their applications and in filing electronic claims for payment after they were awarded grants or contracts. The indictment also accuses Bensaoula and Starikov of using fraudulent letters of support and making false representations about facilities, equipment, and materials.
Authorities believe the two professors and their business received at least five Small Business Innovation Resource contracts for approximately $1.3 million between 2008 and 2013.
If they are found guilty, both men face up to a five year prison term as well as another five years for each conviction of making false statements. The defendants also face a maximum sentence of 20 years for each conviction of wire fraud. All charges also carry fines up to $250,000.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the NASA – Office of Inspector General, National Science Foundation, United States Department of Energy, United States Air Force, Defense Criminal Investigation Service and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.
Assistant United States Attorney Cedric L. Joubert is prosecuting the case.