BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Sentient Science Corporation, a Buffalo, NY, based research and technology corporation, has agreed to pay the United States $2,675,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy N. Okereke, who handled the case, stated that Sentient Science made false statements and representations to receive federal funding under three Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
SBIR grant awards are issued to small, for-profit businesses, such as Sentient, for the purpose of stimulating technological innovation, to meet federal research and development needs, and increasing private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal research and development.
According to the settlement, Sentient made false statements concerning:
• Key personnel that Sentient claimed it would use in the performance of research projects funded by the United States. The corporation did not use such personnel and in some instances substituted significantly less qualified employees to perform work;
• Sentient claimed to have received third-party contracts as a result of work performed for the government in order to obtain additional government funding; and
• Information in grant milestone reports which falsely represented that Sentient expended grant monies that in fact had had not expended.
“Federal funding, such as the Small Business Innovation Research award, is designed to give small business the chance to turn big dreams into a reality,” stated U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. “When such funding designed to stimulate technology and research is misused, not only do the American taxpayers pay the price, but so do those businesses whose dreams may never become a reality, depriving our country of what could be life-changing scientific research.”
“The SBIR program is a valuable tool in advancing NSF’s mission to promote the progress of science by increasing opportunities for small businesses to undertake cutting-edge scientific research, and it is essential to protect the integrity of this program,” commented Alison Lerner, the Inspector General for NSF. “The NSF Office of Inspector General is committed to vigorously pursuing oversight of these taxpayer funds and I commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our investigative partners for their strong support in this effort.”
“Compliance with Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) requirements is expected by all who have the privilege of being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy for this essential program. The Office of Inspector General is committed to investigating allegations of wrongdoing associated with the SBIR grants so that the American taxpayer can maintain confidence in the SBIR program,” said Acting Inspector General April G. Stephenson.
The settlement is the result of an investigation by the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Inspector General Allison Lerner, and the Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Inspector General April G. Stephenson.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
SOURCE: news provided by JUSTICE.GOV on Friday, September 28, 2018.