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Woodmere resident pleads guilty to $225,000 theft

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Woodmere resident and former Stony Brook University associate professor Geoffrey Girnun pleaded guilty on Jan. 14 to one count theft of government funds as part of a plea deal. He stole $225,000 in federal and state money that was earmarked for cancer research.

Girnun, 49, faces up to 30 months in prison and a maximum of three years of supervised release. He agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $225,000, which includes the NIH money and nearly $147,000 from Stony Brook University’s foundation and state-sponsored grants.

Between December 2013 and December 2017, Girnun stole roughly $78,000 from the National Institutes of Heath funds that targeted for cancer research. He then used the money funds to pay for personal expenses, including home mortgage payments. 

Girnun formed shell companies Atlas Metabolomics and Empyrean Biosciences in or about 2013 and 2017, according to officials. The companies reportedly supplied research items and equipment for the defendant’s cancer-related research projects. He then allegedly submitted fraudulent electronic invoices to Stony Brook for payment to the companies for equipment, goods and services that were never received or provided.

The university used National Institutes of Health and school grant money to pay the shell companies more than $200,000. Girnun then allegedly transferred that money into personal bank accounts and used the money to pay personal expenses, including mortgage payments on his house.

“With [the] guilty plea, Girnun has been held accountable for his unconscionable scheme to embezzle for his personal use hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds that were intended to help find a cure for cancer,” United States Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement. 

Girnun joined Stony Brook’s research faculty in 2003. He completed his doctoral degree in 2000 in free radical and cancer biology at the University of Iowa and his postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Bruce Spiegelman at Harvard Medical School and the Dana Farber Institute in 2003.

He held faculty appointments at the Dana Farber and in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the University of Maryland. He resigned from SBU in December.