A Purdue professor and his wife who were indicted last summer on accusations they defrauded the National Science Foundation were faced with new counts filed in federal court this week.
Qingyou Han, a professor of mechanical engineering technology and the director of the Purdue Center for Materials Processing Research, and his wife, Lu Shao, allegedly used NSF grant money to pay off a mortgage and purchase a second home, among other allegations.
According to federal court documents filed originally in July 2018 and again Wednesday, Han and Shao used a company they founded called Hans Tech to attain more than $1.3 million in grants from the NSF.
Hans Tech was the recipient of multiple grants from the NSF’s Small Business Technology Transfer and Small Business Innovation Research programs. Much of the company’s research dealt with the strengthening of lightweight metals for use in the aerospace, defense and automotive industries, according to grant award abstracts in NSF’s database.
Han and his wife are accused of using the money to buy a house in West Lafayette in October 2007. Shao purchased the house in her name for $116,000, according to court documents, and signed a lease with herself for $3,000 per month.
It was later revealed that more than $150,000 of the NSF grants they received was used to pay “office rent” at the location of the Bowfield home, the court documents allege.
Han and Shao did not inform the NSF that Shao owned the home.
“Had that information been revealed to NSF, rental payments for the property would not have been allowed,” the indictment reads. The house was sold in January 2017 for $125,500.
Han and Shao are also accused of paying their then-10- and 15-year-old children salaries of $24,000 for their supposed roles as a secretary and technical assistant for the research project, court documents say.
On Wednesday, a new, "superceding" indictment added one mail fraud count for Han and two for Shao, and it includes the government's intent to seek forfeiture of the money it contends was spent illegally.
A Purdue spokesman said last year in a written statement that the University learned of the indictment when it was filed.
“This indictment, which Purdue learned about today through the U.S. attorney’s announcement, relates to a faculty member’s personal outside business activity,” the statement reads. “The university is looking into the matter. To the extent we have any information relevant to the case, we will, of course, provide it to the authorities.”
Han, who according to the superceding indictment this week "admitted" working with his wife to respond to NSF inquiries about the money, was placed on paid leave. As of Friday, he is still listed in Purdue's directory.
According to salary data obtained by The Exponent, Han was paid $171,466.43 by the University in 2017 and $172,806.94 in 2018.
Trial for the couple is set for Oct. 21 in U.S. District Court in Hammond.