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Northwestern U. to Pay Nearly $3-Million to Settle Research-Grant Fraud Claims

Northwestern University will pay the federal government nearly $3-million to settle allegations of research-grant fraud against a former physician and cancer researcher, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago.

A former employee of the university’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center made the allegations in a lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act. The suit alleged that Charles L. Bennett, a former doctor and researcher at the center, improperly billed personal expenses for travel and meals, as well as consulting fees for unqualified friends and relatives, over a seven-year period beginning in 2003.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Northwestern had cooperated fully during the investigation and did not admit liability as part of the settlement.

In a statement cited by Bloomberg, a Northwestern spokesman said the allegations were at odds with the institution’s “commitment to a culture of compliance in the administration of federal research grants.” He added that the university had chosen to settle to avoid “protracted litigation.” The doctor’s lawyer said his client denies the allegations.

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