News and Press Releases

Defendant Falsified Audit Submitted to National Institutes of Health

December 1, 2008

CHRISTOPHER K. MA, 35, of Seattle, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two counts of Making False Statements. MA faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count when sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on March 13, 2009.

According to the plea agreement, for the last seven years MA served as the director of business affairs for Syntrix Biochip, Inc., DBA Syntrix Biosystems, Inc. an Auburn, Washington, biotech firm. Over that same time period, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the company $7.5 million in grants for cancer research. In July 2006, an NIH grants manager requested a copy of Syntrix’s audited financial statement for the year 2005. The audit was required by NIH policy. After two weeks with no reply, the grants manager asked for the name of the audit firm so the audit could be obtained directly. The grants manager then received a seven page report purporting to be an audit of the grants for 2005. The subsequent investigation revealed that MA had created not only the audit, but also the audit firm. MA had used a pre-paid cell phone for the audit firm’s phone number, and he created false photocopies of checks to make it appear the firm had been paid for the audit. MA also created fake emails to make it appear he was corresponding with the firm about the audit. Additionally, MA submitted to the NIH accounting ledgers that contained false entries. The ledgers indicated various companies had been paid out of Syntrix funds, when in fact some of the money had gone to MA himself, and for other uses.

The case was investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Susan Loitz and Thomas Woods.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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