Former Drexel University professor spent $185K in federal grants at strip clubs, sports bars: Prosecutors

PHILADELPHIA -- A former Drexel University professor in Philadelphia who allegedly spent $185,000 in federal grant money on strip clubs and other personal expenses has been charged with theft.

Prosecutors announced the charges against Chika Nwankpa on Tuesday.

The former head of Drexel University's electrical engineering department, Nwankpa misappropriated grant money from the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation over a period of 10 years, prosecutors said.

Nwankpa, 57, spent $96,000 in federal grant funds at adult entertainment venues and sports bars between 2010 and 2017, prosecutors said. He also allegedly squandered $89,000 on iTunes purchases and meals.

"Mr. Nwankpa inappropriately and criminally diverted tens of thousands of dollars that were allocated for research purposes toward his own private enjoyment. He betrayed Drexel University and tuition-paying students he was paid to educate," said District Attorney Larry Krasner.

According to the district attorney's office, 48% of the 114 separate charges were done on weekends and 63% were processed between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m.

Drexel University had announced last October that it discovered the alleged fraud in 2017 during an internal audit and alerted the government. Authorities said Nwankpa repaid more than $53,000, resigned from Drexel and was barred from federal contracting for six months.

Drexel paid $189,000 to resolve its potential civil liability in the case.

Nwankpa admitted the unauthorized expenses when confronted by university officials and resigned his post. He has agreed to pay back $53,328.

Nwankpa was freed on $25,000 bail after his arrest on Monday. He was charged with theft by unlawful taking and theft by deception, and could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted on both counts.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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