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Former USC professor pleads guilty to lying on grant application

Former USC professor pleads guilty to lying on grant application
Students make their way through the USC campus. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A former USC professor pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal fraud charge of lying on a U.S. Department of Energy research grant application, authorities said.

Alexander Tartakovsky, 59, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement on an application he submitted to the Energy Department on behalf of his company, Argo Science Corp., the Internal Revenue Service said.

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In June 2009, he signed a small-business innovation and research application seeking nearly $100,000. Tartakovsky stated on the application that his primary employment would be with Argo at the time of the award, but USC was his main employer.

From 1998 to 2012 Tartakovsky worked full time at USC as a research professor, with his salary being paid primarily by grants from the U.S. government.

The Somers, Conn., native started the company in 2006 with his wife. Argo is an environmental and natural resources company. 

The Energy Department awarded a $99,999 grant to Argo. Agency officials told federal prosecutors they would not have given Tartakovsky the research money if they had known Argo was not his primary source of employment.

Tartakovsky is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 22; he faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. He may also be ordered to pay back the grant money.

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