College professor pleads not guilty to stealing cancer funds

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CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — A Stony Brook University professor pleaded not guilty Thursday to stealing tens of thousands of dollars of government cancer research funds to pay personal bills, including his mortgage.

Geoffrey Girnun, 48, of Woodmere, New York, was released on $250,000 bail after an arraignment in federal court in Central Islip.

Prosecutors said Girnun was an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Director of Cancer Metabolomics at Stony Brook’s Renaissance School of Medicine when over $200,000 in grant funds was diverted to shell companies from 2013 to 2017.

Prosecutors said Girnun tried to make it seem the shell companies were providing research items and equipment for Girnun’s cancer-related research projects by submitting fraudulent electronic invoices to receive payments for equipment, goods, and services that were never received.

Afterward, they said, he moved the money from the shell companies to his personal bank accounts before using the funds to pay his personal expenses, including home mortgage payments.

In a statement, the school, which placed Girnun on administrative leave, said it was “outraged and appalled by the allegations.”

“This alleged behavior is absolutely contrary to the ethical and professional standards expected of our faculty,” the statement said. “The University has fully cooperated with the investigation and at this time is considered by the FBI as a victim in this matter.”

U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said “pure greed” motivated Girnun.

William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York’s FBI office, said Girnun was abusing the faith Americans place in programs established to fund cancer-related research.

“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,” Sweeney said in a release.

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