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.