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Hunter College and Former Professor Settle Fraud Lawsuit

February 1, 2023

The federal government has settled a lawsuit with Hunter College and a former Hunter professor alleging fraudulent use of grant funding from the National Institutes of Health between 2010 and 2018, according to a statement the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York released Monday.

The lawsuit centered on Jeffrey Parsons-Hietikko, a former psychology professor who also led Hunter’s Center for HIV Educational Studies (CHEST), which he founded in 1996. Parsons-Hietikko, whom the attorney’s office said was “singularly proficient” at procuring NIH funding, admitted to seeking reimbursements for expenses entirely unrelated to his or CHEST’s research, including for scuba-diving excursions, international flights for him and his family, a tropical birthday celebration, and trips to visit private consulting clients. According to the statement, he falsely claimed those expenses were for academic or research purposes.

Parsons-Hietikko resigned from Hunter in 2019 after a series of sexual harassment complaints that ultimately cost the City University of New York system, of which Hunter is a part, $1.25 million in settlement money.

Hunter College also admitted to improper use of NIH funds, including submitting false timekeeping records that resulted in CHEST staff being reimbursed for unapproved work and using $90,000 in NIH money to pay Parsons-Hietikko undisclosed retention bonuses.

According to the terms of the settlement, Parsons-Hietikko will pay $375,000 and Hunter will pay $200,000.

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Liam Knox

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