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CU professor arrested for using his company to sell marked-up lab equipment to the university

By David Schwartz
Published: May 13th, 2015

A former professor at the University of Colorado (CU) has been arrested on suspicion of launching a company to sell marked-up lab equipment to the CU-Boulder campus in what prosecutors are calling a theft “scheme.”

Donald Cooper is facing a felony charge of theft between $20,000 and $100,000. Prosecutors are alleging that he created the company Boulder Science Resource to buy lasers and other lab equipment that he marked up 300% and then resold to his CU lab, according to an arrest affidavit. The scheme also implicates Cooper’s father, who received a salary and a car from Boulder Science Resource.

In total CU paid the company $97,554.03 between January 1st, 2009, and April 30th, 2013, according to the affidavit. The university calculates that Cooper’s mark-ups cost CU $65,036, with some of that money coming from federal grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Boulder Science Resource case resembles another recent scandal involving faculty members selling equipment to their university. At the University of Connecticut (UConn), a number of faculty members who had a stake in AquaSeNT, a UConn spinoff, authorized the purchase of $250,000 worth of underwater communications equipment from the company. Though they did not disclose their interest in the AquaSenT at first, auditors later discovered that the faculty members did have a stake in the company. The school and the faculty involved are now under investigation and could be found in violation of both state and federal law. (For more on the UConn case, click here.)

In 2014, CU began the process of firing Cooper on suspicion of fiscal misconduct, and he resigned that July as part of a settlement deal. Though Cooper claims that his father Gary Cooper was in charge of the company and that it sold CU equipment “at prices that were greatly discounted,” prosecutors assert that the professor “employed a scheme” to deceive CU for his own benefit, according to the affidavit.

“It is alleged that [Boulder Science Resource] was created to defraud the University of Colorado by acting as a middleman to generate income to employ Gary and to provide personal benefit for Cooper,” wrote Alisha Baurer, an investigator in the District Attorney’s Office.

The DA’s Office determined that Cooper’s father received $23,785.80 from the company in the form of salary and a car. It also found that $31,974.89 was paid from the company’s accounts to Cooper’s personal credit card, while $14,733.54 went to his personal PayPal account.

CU’s internal investigation discovered that Boulder Science Resource had no customers other than the university and Mobile Assay, a start-up Cooper founded based on a technology he developed while at CU. “It is internal audit’s conclusion that the forgoing acts/failures to act were done with intent to gain an unauthorized benefit,” the audit report reads.

Patrick O’Rourke, CU’s chief legal officer, says the university was aware of Cooper’s arrest and will cooperate with prosecutors.

Source:  Daily Camera

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