Feds: Attending 'Sleeping Beauty' Performance Not a Valid Research Effort

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York detailed a researcher’s alleged lavish personal spending it says he charged to federal grant funds in criminal and civil court filings Nov. 28.

Prosecutors say former New York University psychiatry professor Alexander Neumeister used National Institute of Mental Health and NYU funds to cover flights, lodging, meals, and bar tabs for a person they described as a friend and for his family. They say he billed the government and NYU thousands in costs not related to research or other university work.

In one case, Neumeister flew from New York City to Chicago in October 2013 to see his companion, a ballet dancer, perform in “Sleeping Beauty,” authorities say. They say he allocated the $341.80 airfare to a NIMH grant, claiming the trip was for a meeting at a university there.

He then bought her a ticket from Chicago to New York City and also one from there to Salt Lake City, where she lived at that time, authorities say. Neumeister charged the $573.20 cost again to NIMH, saying she was a research participant.

The court documents allege a litany of other improper spending, including:

  • Thirteen flights between New York City and Salt Lake City for him or his friend to travel between the cities;
  • Hotel stays in Salt Lake City and accompanying bar and meal tabs;
  • A lunch at the Park City, Utah Waldorf Astoria;
  • Several flights between New York City and Charlotte, when the friend was living there;
  • A trip to Florida with the friend with a stay at The Standard Beach Miami;
  • An iPhone for the friend; and
  • Trips to Vienna, Austria; Miami, and Washington, D.C., for family members.

The criminal case alleges theft of government funds and wire fraud. The civil case alleges violations of the False Claims Act and seeks treble damages.

Neumeister has been appointed a public defender in the criminal case at least for now, and he did not immediately return a request for comment.

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