Two University of New Hampshire researchers have been arrested for allegedly misusing federal grant funds.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Concord says Hailong Zhang, 44, of Nottingham, and Jichun Zhang, 45, of Durham, were arrested on Friday. The men each face 31 counts of theft of government money for spending nearly $90,000 in research funding on personal items, including Amazon gift cards.
It is unclear at this time if the defendants are related. Hailong Zhang is a research project manager at the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. Jichun Zhang is a research assistant professor at the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space.
According to a statement released by UNH, the school noticed suspicious charges in reimbursement claims from the men in December. The school said it immediately turned the information over to police and government officials.
“The matter remains under criminal investigation and the university is cooperating fully with authorities,” the school’s statement reads. “The university takes its fiduciary responsibilities very seriously and will continue to actively monitor expenditures.”
Both cases center on the use of credit cards provided by UNH to cover expenses associated with federal research grants. Police say Hailong Zhang’s theft stretches back to December 2013, when he allegedly began faking receipts to hide more than $82,000 in Amazon cards, which he in turn used for personal purchases. UNH reimbursed Hailong Zhang for those cards though a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the police say.
Jichun Zhang is accused of a similar scheme, though over a shorter span and involving less money. Police say he used a UNH-issued credit card to purchase nearly $7,000 in personal items from Amazon, PayPal and Apple and was then reimbursed through a grant from NASA. He, too, is accused of faking receipts to hide the theft.
It is unclear at this time if the defendants are related. Both appeared in U.S. District Court in Concord for an arraignment Friday where they pleaded not guilty. Both were released from custody.