OU Energy Faculty Couple Pleads Guilty to Charges Involving DOE Grants

A Norman couple charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud has pleaded guilty to making false statements regarding grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, according to a KFOR report on Wednesday.

Shaorong Liu and Juan Lu were charged on February 18, 2021 after a federal grand jury returned a 16-count indictment. Liu is identified as a professor while Lu is listed as an affiliate research scientist at OU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, according to the university’s website.

The couple maintained a controlling interest in MicroChem Solutions. Through this company, they applied for and received federal grant monies from the Department of Energy’s Small Business Technology Transfer Program.  The mission of the grant program was to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy.

Investigators alleged the couple spent the grant money on matters unrelated to the purpose of the grant funding including personal expenses. In addition, the couple submitted falsified documents to the Department of Energy in an effort to substantiate how the grant money was utilized.

Initially, the couple was facing a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Under the terms of their plea agreement, both now face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The case was a result of an investigation by the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General, the National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Oklahoma City Field Office.