Court Orders Hermosa Man to Pay $222,362.11 for Defrauding the National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation (“NSF”) is a United States agency created to support basic scientific research by providing grants, to individuals, businesses, academic and nonprofit institutions. Scott Thompson, d/b/a as Isosceles, LLC., submitted a grant proposal to study solar cells and develop technology to harvest light and produce renewable energy. Thompson specifically represented that a Post-Doctoral foreign national student of electrical engineering at the South Dakota State University (SDSU) was the principal scientific investigator on the project. Relying on Thompson’s statements, the NSF awarded grant funding. Thompson then represented that the student had worked more than 160 hours on the project, and drew down grant funds. Thompson knew his representations were untrue because he never met or hired the student. He used the grant funds to pay his personal bills. Thompson was found guilty, after a jury trial, of two counts of making false claims and two counts of submitting false documents to the NSF in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287 and § 1001, and was ordered to pay restitution totaling $87,637.89 to the NSF and SDSU (United States v. Scott Thompson, CR 11-50054).
United States Attorney’s Office then brought a civil action pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1), which imposes liability on persons and companies who knowingly submit false claims to the government. Persons who submit a false claim must pay to the United States a civil penalty for each false claim, plus three times the amount of damages the government sustained. Pursuant to the FCA, the Court ordered Thompson to pay a civil judgment of $222,362.11 to the United States. In doing so, the Court stated that Thompson’s “convictions preclude him from denying the essential elements of the government’s FCA claim” and the jury found that Thompson “knowingly presented false claims to the government in order to receive funds from the NSF.” (United States v. Scott Thompson, CIV 15-5060-JLV, Doc. 44).
Criminal restitution, penalties, and debts obtained by fraud are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, 11 U.S.C. § 523. The United States Attorney’s Office places a high priority on criminal and civil enforcement in cases involving all types of fraud committed against the government, including grant fraud, and works with various law enforcement agencies to identify and investigate these matters.
The investigation was conducted by the National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah Collins, Eric Kelderman, and Cheryl Schrempp DuPris prosecuted the criminal and civil cases respectively.