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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Stony Brook University Professor Indicted for Stealing Over $200,000 in Cancer Research Funds

Defendant Allegedly Used Grant Funds to Make Payments on His Home Mortgage

Geoffrey Girnun, an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Director of Cancer Metabolomics at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University (“SBU”) was charged in a seven-count indictment unsealed today with theft of state and federal government funds, wire fraud and money laundering.  Girnun allegedly submitted fraudulent invoices for research equipment to SBU from sham companies he created to conceal his theft of funds from cancer-related research grants issued by the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) and SBU. Girnun was arrested this morning and is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in federal court in Central Islip before United States Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Scott J. Lampert, Special-Agent-in-Charge, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), announced the charges.

According to the indictment, in or about 2013 and 2017, Girnun formed shell companies Atlas Metabolomics, LLC (“Atlas”) and Empyrean Biosciences, LLC (“Empyrean”), which purportedly provided research items and equipment for the defendant’s cancer-related research projects.  Girnun then submitted fraudulent electronic invoices to SBU for payment to the companies for equipment, goods and services that were never received or provided.  SBU used NIH and SBU grant funds to pay the shell companies over $200,000.  Girnun transferred the NIH and SBU grant funds into his personal bank accounts and used the funds for personal expenses, including payments toward the mortgage on his home.

“Professor Girnun’s alleged theft of federal and state grant funds earmarked for cancer research can be explained in two words: pure greed,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “He will now be held to account in a federal courtroom.”

“As millions of Americans place their faith in programs established to fund cancer-related research, Geoffrey Girnun, a professor, allegedly siphoned money from grant funds established for this very purpose,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.  “While people continued to suffer from their illnesses, Girnun made payments toward his personal mortgage with the money he stole. His conduct is despicable, and it won’t be tolerated.”

“Taxpayers fund medical research with the hope that promising scientific breakthroughs will result in much-needed treatments and cures for patients.  Because the money for medical research is limited and the need for scientific advances is great, it’s incredibly important to clamp down on those who would steal such grant money for personal gain,” stated HHS-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Lampert.  “Professor Girnun will face the consequences of his actions.”     

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, Girnun faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Erin E. Argo and Madeline O’Connor are in charge of the prosecution. 

The Defendant:

Age: 48
Woodmere, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CR-416 (DJH)

Financial Fraud
John Marzulli United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323
Updated September 12, 2019