FORMER MASSACHUSETTS SCIENTIST CONVICTED OF FRAUD SCHEME INVOLVING A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR FEDERAL RESEARCH GRANT
Boston, Mass...A federal jury in Boston has convicted Christopher D. Willson, a former Massachusetts scientist and businessman, in connection with a fraud scheme involving a multi-million dollar federal research grant.
On June 21, Willson was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud and four counts of false claims.
Willson was the chief scientist and senior vice president of EV Worldwide, LLC (EVW), a Pittsfield, Mass. company. From 2000 through 2005, United States Congressman John Olver arranged for an earmark directing the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to transfer approximately $4.3 million to EVW through a regional transit agency called the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA).
According to Congressman Olver’s testimony, he intended the earmarked funds to be spent by EVW to develop an electric battery that would be used to propel public transit buses. The federal grant required EVW to match the federal funds, dollar-for-dollar, with its own resources. For every dollar EVW spent on the project, the company could seek up to 50 percent reimbursement from the FTA.
Evidence presented at trial showed that, from 2004 through 2005, Willson submitted 10 fraudulent invoices in which he falsely claimed that EVW was matching the FTA funds, when in fact, EVW was millions of dollars in debt and had nearly no other non-public source of funds. Willson repeatedly contacted and met with Congressman Olver and grant officials at the FTA and PVTA to discuss the company’s claimed progress and federal grant funding, but he never informed them of the company’s financial problems. As a result of this deception, Willson fraudulently obtained more than $700,000 in federal funds for EVW.
Willson used the money to pay EVW’s CEO, Michael Armitage, approximately $250,000, paid himself approximately $100,000, and to provide approximately $110,000 to fund a separate Canadian research company, Hydrogen Storage Media, Inc., which he and Armitage had founded.
U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel scheduled sentencing for October 6, 2011. Willson faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the six counts of wire fraud, up to five years in prison for each of the four counts of false claims and up to five years in prison on the conspiracy count. Willson also faces maximum fines of $250,000 per count.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice; Theodore L. Doherty III, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations; William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; and Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Office made the announcement today.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Ortiz’s Springfield Branch Office and Trial Attorney Edward J. Loya, Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, IRS-CI, and the FBI’s Boston Field Office, with assistance from the Defense Contract Audit Agency.