Iowa State professor admits making false statements to federal government

Accused of spending grant money on personal expenses; could spend five years in prison

Vanessa Miller
Published: January 29 2014 | 11:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:49 am in

A former Iowa State University who spent 31 years at the school before resigning last month has admitting to making false statements to the federal government and could spend five years in prison.

Palaniappa Molian, 60, of Ames, pleaded guilty on Friday to two felony charges after admitting to submitting reimbursement expense vouchers containing false statements to the National Science Foundation in December 2009.

At the time, Molian was a principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to ISU and claimed in a requested reimbursement that he went to Boston to work on the grant research experiment, according to a written plea agreement.

But, in the agreement, Molian admitted that he didn’t perform any work on the research project while in Boston but instead traveled there for unrelated reasons.

Molian also admitted in the plea agreement that, in his capacity as president of Photon Energy Technology, he submitted a “small business innovation research program report” to the National Science Foundation on July 1, 2010 that contained false statements.

In the report, Molian said sought payment for about $20,000 in laser rental costs “when he had access to a laser at no cost,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

“Molian spent the excess grant funds he was awarded on unrelated personal expenses,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Molian will be sentenced on April 24 for making false statements to a federal agency. The charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

The National Science Foundation Office of the Inspector General and the FBI investigated the case.

Molian, who was a tenured professor in the ISU College of Engineering when he left on Dec. 31, started his career at ISU on Aug. 21, 1982.

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