Morgan professor accused of grant money kickback scheme

A Morgan State University professor accused of defrauding the National Science Foundation also paid out Department of Defense grant money to students in exchange for kickbacks, federal prosecutors allege in a court filing.

Manoj Kumar Jha, director of the university's Center for Advanced Transportation and Infrastructure Engineering Research, handed stipend checks to students at the university, the document said, but demanded they pay part of the money back to him.


The students were not asked to do any research in return, prosecutors wrote.

Jha has not been charged in connection with the alleged kickback scheme, but federal prosecutors say they want to use it to bolster the charges that he improperly obtained $200,000 from the National Science Foundation, then misspent it.


"As with the scheme charged in the Indictment, the defendant used the auspices of his position as a professor at Morgan State University to also divert those federal research funds to his own personal use," Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Clarke wrote.

Federal prosecutors wrote in another filing that Jha's lawyers have suggested he thought it was OK to use the National Science Foundation money as he did. An attorney for Jha could not be reached for comment. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges he faces.

One student, who is not identified in the court papers, approached Jha and told him that he or she needed money to pay tuition, prosecutors wrote. Jha gave the student checks for $4,500 and $2,000. But he then asked the student to write him a personal check for $4,500, prosecutors said, in an effort to cover up his alleged misuse of the grant money.

A spokesman for Morgan State did not respond to a request for comment.

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The Defense Department awarded the money used in the alleged kickback scheme to a company called Scientific Research Corp., which subcontracted work to Morgan State, according to the filing.

The company could not be reached for comment.

In March, Jha's attorneys asked a judge to throw out the case, arguing that the investigators had obtained confidential communications between Jha and his legal team, violating his constitutional rights.

The National Science Foundation money was supposed to be spent researching ways "to enhance current models used by highway planners to optimize horizontal and vertical highway routes, and ultimately, to commercialize the result," according to federal authorities.


Instead he spent some of the money on paying off his mortgage and credit card bills, and funneling money to his wife, according to the indictment in the case.