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Post date: February 16 2010

The New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo Announces Charges Against Former Ub Researcher For Hiring Actors To Testify During Misconduct Hearing And Attempting To Siphon $4 Million In Taxpayer Funds

BUFFALO, NY (February 16, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced criminal charges against a former University at Buffalo researcher who allegedly hired professional actors to portray real people who were familiar with his projects to testify on his behalf during a formal misconduct hearing. The researcher, who was exonerated of the misconduct because of the false testimonies, then attempted to seek $4 million from the state for monetary damages.

“The charges in this case allege a pattern of lies and deceit that a public employee used to attempt to defraud New York’s taxpayers of millions of dollars,” said Attorney General Cuomo. ‘The brazen crimes allegedly committed by this individual outline a series of frauds that could have damaged our outstanding SUNY system. New Yorkers demand and deserve integrity from State employees and with this prosecution we will work to restore that trust in public service.”

In September 2004, William Fals-Stewart, 48, of Eden, was accused of scientific misconduct for allegedly fabricating data in federally funded studies he was undertaking as an employee at the University at Buffalo and Research Institute on Addictions. According to court papers, the allegations were based upon discrepancies between the number of volunteers he reported to the National Institute for Drug Addiction relating to grants for which Fals-Stewart was the Principal Investigator, and the actual number of volunteers who participated in his studies.

According to the felony complaint, during a subsequent formal investigation launched by the University, three witnesses testified by telephone because Fals-Stewart claimed they were out of town. In reality, they were actors who thought they were taking part in a mock-trial. Fals-Stewart paid the actors to testify. He also provided them with scripts to use during the proceedings that were riddled with inaccuracies regarding his research. Fals-Stewart told the three actors, who he had hired before for legitimate training videos, that they would be performing in a mock trial training exercise. They were not aware that they were testifying at a real administrative hearing, nor did they know they were impersonating real people. Because of these false testimonies, Fals-Stewart was exonerated at the administrative hearing.

Claiming that the misconduct allegations tarnished his reputation, Fals-Stewart sued the University, seeking $4 million from the state in damages. The Office of the Attorney General, in its role of defending the University and the state in the court action, conducted a thorough investigation of the claims against the University. It was during this investigation that Cuomo’s office discovered the alleged fraud, forced Fals-Stewart to withdraw his lawsuit and initiated a criminal investigation.

Fals-Stewart was arrested today and charged in Buffalo City Court with Attempted Grand Larceny in the First Degree (class C felony); three counts of Perjury in the First Degree (class D felony); three counts of Identity Theft in the First Degree (class D felony); two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (class E felony); and three counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (class E felony). The maximum permissible sentence for a class C felony is 15 years in prison.

Attorney General Cuomo thanked Dr. Nancy L. Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York and her staff for assisting in the investigation.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Buffalo Regional Office Russell T. Ippolito, Jr. under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs J. David Sampson and Deputy Bureau Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Richard Ernst. The investigation was handled by Investigator Paul R. Scherf under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator James Domres.

The charges against Fals-Stewart are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.