Raleigh researcher profited from web of federal contractors

akenney@newsobserver.comSeptember 24, 2013 

— The federal government would like a sniper rifle, a generator, a Raleigh town house and about $842,000 from a Raleigh research scientist.

Dwight Woolard, who had a long career at a U.S. Army research office in Durham, pleaded guilty last month to an elaborate money-shuffling scheme that put close to $1 million into his and his wife’s joint bank accounts.

A plea agreement shows that Woolard tapped into a network of government contractors and employees, in some cases using his influence to take advantage of “broadly defined” government contracts.

According to court documents, he:

• Had contractors inflate their prices to defuse a University of Virginia inquiry into his wife’s work.

• Helped obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars to run conferences, much of which went to his wife for work he did himself.

• Used his influence over funding to force contractors to attend those conferences, for which his wife was collecting registration fees.

Woolard worked as a program manager for “solid-state and high-frequency electronics” at the U.S. Army Research Office in Durham, starting in September 1998.

His wife-to-be, Monica Naples, started a company called Qtronika in 2001, just a few months before they married. Then Woolard used his influence to funnel business to that business.

According to the plea agreement, a University of Virginia professor working on projects managed by Woolard paid $93,000 to Qtronika for contract work. When the school questioned the invoices, Woolard had other companies provide quotes higher than Qtronika’s rates.

In another case, Woolard had an executive at a research company tack funding onto a large existing contract as a “pass through” to pay Qtronika to create a website about terahertz research. The Army shut down the website project, but not before Qtronika received about $80,000.

The most lucrative scheme detailed in the plea agreement involved a series of scientific conferences organized by Qtronika on “spectral sensing research” and “nanoelectrics,” for which Woolard helped secure funding and grants from the federal government and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Woolard wasn’t always careful in hiding his involvement, according to the plea. In at least one instance, he sent an invoice for Qtronika from his work email account.

Over the years, Woolard and Naples used the Qtronika funds to buy land in Bath and a town house on Parkridge Lane in Raleigh, improve their properties, buy a car, pay down credit cards and fund retirement accounts, for which they took federal income tax deductions.

The federal government also is seeking return of a .50-caliber rifle that Woolard kept after an experiment for which Qtroinka was paid, according to the plea. Woolard was terminated from the U.S. Army Research Office in December 2012.

Under the plea agreement, Woolard accepts guilt for conspiracy to defraud the federal government, with a maximum prison term of five years and a $250,000 fine. Under the agreement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina won’t pursue prosecution of Woolard’s wife. A woman who picked up at a phone number listed for Qtronika said she had no comment.

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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