Former Drexel professor charged with spending grant money on strip clubs

Drexel University

Drexel University in Philadelphia on Wednesday, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Updated 5:18 p.m.

Chikaodinaka Nwankpa, the former head of Drexel University’s electrical engineering department, was arrested Monday for allegedly spending thousands in federal grant money on himself, including trips to “adult entertainment clubs” and sports bars in Philadelphia, between 2007 and 2017.

The felony theft charges come roughly three months after Drexel University agreed to pay the federal government nearly $190,000 to avoid a potential lawsuit.

Local prosecutors say Nwankpa, 57, used a university charge card to complete more than 100 transactions at adult venues in the city between April 2015 and April 2017, including Club Risque and Cheerleaders, according to internal documents from the District Attorney’s Office obtained by WHYY.

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Nearly half of those transactions were processed on Saturdays and Sundays. Nearly two-thirds were processed between midnight and roughly 2 a.m.

“Mr. Nwankpa inappropriately and criminally diverted tens of thousands of dollars that were allocated for research purposes toward his own private enjoyment. He betrayed Drexel University and tuition-paying students he was paid to educate,” said District Attorney Larry Krasner in a news release.

Nwankpa was released after making payment on $25,000 bail set by a judge and surrendering his passport. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29 before Municipal Court Judge T. Francis Shields.

Nwankpa, who worked for Drexel for 27 years before resigning, is charged with one count of theft by deception and one count of theft by unlawful taking. He did not return a request for comment.

Drexel University spokesperson Britt Faulstick said, “Drexel takes allegations of unethical or unlawful business conduct on the part of any members of the university community very seriously.” He added, “The university initially reported this situation to the U.S Attorney’s Office and has worked cooperatively with the federal government to resolve the matter.”

As of October, Nwankpa had repaid $53,328 to Drexel, according to prosecutors.

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