Timonium Man Pleads Guilty To Stealing Over $570,000 From An NIH Research Grant
Stole Money Intended for Research Conducted at the
National Institute for Drug Abuse Facilities in Baltimore
Baltimore, Maryland - Baltimore, Maryland – Jason Dietz, age 34, of Timonium, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to theft of funds from a federal program, in connection with the theft of at least $571,205 in grant money from the National Institute for Drug Abuse for research conducted at its facilities in Baltimore.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Elton Malone, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations, Special Investigations Branch.
The National Institute for Drug Abuse (“NIDA”) is part of the National Institutes of Health and is located at Johns Hopkins Bayview Center in Baltimore. NIDA also operates the Archway Treatment Clinic, also in Baltimore. NIDA and its grantees conduct research on the science of addiction and treatment and publish that research in scientific and medical peer-reviewed journals. For each of the years 2006-2013, NIDA conducted from 26 – 31 studies at Bayview and the Archway Clinic.
According to Dietz’s plea agreement, from 2006 until June 2013, Dietz worked for Matthews Media Group (MMG), which was contracted by NIDA to recruit, screen, and compensate participants in NIDA’s clinical research studies conducted at Bayview and Archway. Dietz’ job was to compensate study participants, typically with cash or gift cards, obtain receipts from study participants, and keep a spreadsheet of participants’ compensation with supporting documentation—chiefly signed receipts from the study participants. Dietz was a signatory on an MMG bank account from which he withdrew cash to pay study participants; in addition, he provided cash to Archway Clinic for the clinic employees to pay study participants. MMG invoiced NIDA each month and included in its invoice amounts taken directly from the spreadsheet prepared by Dietz.
Dietz admitted that, beginning in 2007, he embezzled funds from MMG in several ways. For example, Dietz paid study participants and obtained a signed receipt from them, then logged a higher amount on the spreadsheet and pocketed the difference between the two amounts. In addition, Dietz created fictitious receipt numbers and amounts which he placed on his spreadsheet, then pocketed all the cash from these fictitious payments. Finally, Dietz listed on his spreadsheet higher amounts than were actually paid to Archway Clinic employees for them to pay Archway participants and pocketed the difference.
In 2013, MMG was responding to questions from NIDA employees when discrepancies were discovered between the signed receipts and Dietz’ spreadsheet. MMG then conducted an audit that looked at every entry on every spreadsheet which was used to bill NIDA and the back-up documentation. For the time period October 2006 through May 2013, the MMG auditor found that Dietz overstated the expenses on the spreadsheet compared to the actual receipts by $571,205, and that he deposited $586,083 into his personal bank account during that same time period. In addition, the MMG auditors discovered that $112,500 was missing from the MMG bank account on which Dietz was a signatory. Dietz admitted that in addition to depositing embezzled funds into his personal bank account, he also embezzled cash that he spent.
As part of his plea agreement, Dietz is required to pay restitution in the full amount of the loss. While the exact amount of the loss will be determined at sentencing, it is at least $571,205.
Dietz faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has scheduled sentencing for September 8, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the HHS-OIG for its work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joyce K. McDonald, who is prosecuting the case.