One that Won’t Make it to ORI

A colleague from a prior institution alerted me to this unusual case of a scientist behaving badly.

In September 2004, Dr. William Fals-Stewart (University at Buffalo and Research Institute on Addictions) was accused of fabricating data in NIDA-funded studies; there were discrepancies between the number of subjects reported on progress reports and the actual number of consent forms signed. In December,
a University at Buffalo Inquiry Panel found the data fabrication charges to be warranted and recommended a formal investigation be undertaken.

At that point, this could almost have just been an accounting error that needed to be clarified, but probably a bit more as Fals-Stewart was apparently pressured to leave the University in 2005. And clearly there was serious fabrication of one at least one according to a news release from NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo:

… during a subsequent formal investigation launched by the University, three witnesses testified by telephone because Fals-Stewart claimed they were out of town. In reality, they were actors who thought they were taking part in a mock-trial. Fals-Stewart paid the actors to testify. He also provided them with scripts to use during the proceedings that were riddled with inaccuracies regarding his research. Fals-Stewart told the three actors, who he had hired before for legitimate training videos, that they would be performing in a mock trial training exercise. They were not aware that they were testifying at a real administrative hearing, nor did they know they were impersonating real people. Because of these false testimonies, Fals-Stewart was exonerated at the administrative hearing.

Claiming that the misconduct allegations tarnished his reputation, Fals-Stewart sued the University, seeking $4 million from the state in damages. The Office of the Attorney General, in its role of defending the University and the state in the court action, conducted a thorough investigation of the claims against the University. It was during this investigation that Cuomo’s office discovered the alleged fraud, forced Fals-Stewart to withdraw his lawsuit and initiated a criminal investigation.

Fals-Stewart was arrested February 16th on multiple felony charges (attempted grand larceny, perjury, identity theft, offering a false instrument and falsifying business records) … and was found dead at his home on February 23rd. Cause of death, after autopsy but probably not all toxicology results, remains unknown (or unreported). The Buffalo News suggests he may have been ill in recent years.

But wait, there’s more. Between 2005 and 2010, Fals-Stewart was not idle. According to the University of Rochester Campus Times:

After leaving UB, Fals-Stewart worked at Research Park Triangle in North Carolina before coming to UR, where he was hired as a professor at the School of Nursing in 2007.

He resigned in November 2009, and in January he filed against UR in the State Supreme Court, claiming that he should have been granting tenure at the University.

I assume the Campus Times means he thinks he should have been granted tenure versus doing the granting … fortunately, his response to denial of tenure did not inflict tragedy on others.

4 Comments »

  1. D said

    What amazes me most in a case like this is the other schools that subsequently hired him. Didn’t the school of nursing call any of his former colleagues from UB before they hired him?

  2. Robert Stein said

    Here is what I learned from all this, and others at Research…at times administration suggests numbers be under-reported and at time be over- reported with threats of retaliation if they say no, and when caught an employee takes the blame, or was this strictly Fals-Stewart with an ego and a means to justify his paycheck? Either way if the claim was 40 subjects rather than the reported 200 clients–from experience why was this not easily caught back in 2004–and the kicker people should read www. timesunion.com “court ruling could open a closed book” dated 10/21/2010 by Scott Waldman–re” Susan Bruno and her no-show job that some of us complained about–and this goes on all over the county along with those fudged time sheets that will now be available to the public along with back end documents that look at 200 hours of taxpayers money as far as salary paid by us, for 40 hours worth of work–go A.G.–Fal-s Stewart turned up dead, how about you eliminate the living that abuse us every day….and there are 1,000 plus people that do that and allowed to continue living out their lives, collecting pensions, getting other jobs in the system if caught–so who and why did Fals-Stewart do this? when there are bigger fry to fish.

  3. kim said

    the saddest part to this is that UB was using money to grant other projects that were not part of the original grant-Stewart brought this to the attention of others and then many false charges were brought against him. he continued to prove his innocence time and time again. they flat out told him that they would continue to file charges until he was broke or dead. Yet, they still use his research but use a different name. How do they sleep at night?

    • D said

      No. The sad part is that he cheated, was caught, tried to cover it up (hired actors who thought they were taking part in a mock-trial) then was caught again. What a hug waste.

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