The former head of Drexel University’s electrical engineering department was charged with theft Tuesday, three months after he stuck the school with a $190,000 tab for research money he allegedly misspent at strip clubs and on personal expenses.
Philadelphia prosecutors accused Chikaodinaka Nwankpa, 57, of spending $96,000 in federal grant funds at adult entertainment venues and sports bars between 2010 and 2017. He allegedly squandered $89,000 — funding he had secured for science, energy, and naval research — on iTunes purchases and meals.
Nwankpa’s activities came to light in 2017, when university auditors discovered he had sought several reimbursements for “no receipt” purchases dating to 2010.
While Nwankpa claimed he spent the money on catering and food, auditors found nearly half of it had been spent on weekends, and most of it between midnight and 2 a.m. at venues including Club Risque and Cheerleaders in South Philadelphia.
Nwankpa admitted the unauthorized expenses when confronted by university officials. He resigned his post and agreed to pay back $53,328 — less than a third of the overall bill.
“He betrayed Drexel University and the tuition-paying students he was paid to educate,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement announcing the charges Tuesday.
A university spokesperson has said that Drexel immediately reported Nwankpa’s misconduct to authorities and has cooperated with local and federal investigators.
“Drexel takes allegations of unethical or unlawful business conduct on the part of any members of the university community very seriously and remains committed to being in full compliance with all billing regulations and requirements,” spokesperson Niki Gianakaris said after the announcement of the school’s settlement with the federal government in October.
Nwankpa did not return calls for comment Tuesday, a day after his arrest and release on $25,000 bail. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison on each of the two counts he faces. It was not clear whether he had retained an attorney.
A preliminary hearing in his case is scheduled for Jan. 29.
Prior to his resignation, Nwankpa spent 27 years teaching in Drexel’s electrical and computer engineering department, chairing it from 2015 until his departure.
His faculty bio describes him as one of the university’s top attractors of grant funds and credits him with landing more than $10 million in research dollars throughout his career.