Local News

Indicted ex-professor to fight fraud charge

Posted December 3, 2013 10:15 a.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2013 10:19 a.m. EST

— A former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor who was indicted Monday on a fraud charge surrendered to authorities Tuesday morning and was released on a $30,000 bond.

Julius Nyang’oro was accompanied to the Orange County Courthouse by his wife and attorney Butch Williams. He declined to comment and entered a not guilty plea during his first court appearance.

"There’s been one side of the story that has been put forth in the press, but we intend to present his side," defense attorney Bil Thomas said. "We think this was an unfortunate decision to charge Dr. Nyang’oro, and we intend to fight these charges."

A grand jury indicted Nyang'oro, 59, of 9 Wickersham Drive in Durham, on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretense. Investigators say he accepted $12,000 for teaching a summer school course in 2011, but no lectures were ever held.

He resigned in August as chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, which was at the center of an investigation into academic fraud involving Tar Heel football players. The allegations focused on no-show classes, altered grades and other improprieties revealed at the university during an NCAA investigation into the football program that began in the summer of 2010.

An internal investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin revealed that any irregularities were concentrated in Nyang'oro's department and dated to about 1994. Martin found no anomalies outside of that department and no specific link between the scandal and student-athletes.

The State Bureau of investigation spent the last year sifting through documents, including nearly 100,000 emails, to determine whether any criminal charges were warranted.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said that the statute of limitations had already run out on any misdemeanor charges that could have been brought against Nyang'oro, so prosecutors were left with the single felony charge to pursue in the case.

Nyang’oro faces up to 30 months in prison if convicted, although authorities said it's more likely he would be placed on probation.

His uncle, Sichle Sikazwb, said the family believes he is innocent and will continue to stand by him.

"He hasn't done anything wrong," Sikazwb said. "It seems the whole world is going after him as if he was the whole university. He wasn't the whole university; he was just a professor."

Teaching was Nyang'oro's passion, according to his uncle, and UNC has made him a scapegoat for troubles in its athletics program.

"Why aren't they going after other people? You mean he is the only one who has done all the wrong?" Sikazwb said.

Woodall said one more person might be indicted in the case next month.

UNC-Chapel Hill reclaimed the money improperly paid to Nyang'oro through garnishment of his final paycheck, officials said.