URBANA — A University of Illinois faculty member is due in court next month to face criminal charges that he stole money from the UI by submitting fraudulent travel expenses.
The Champaign County State's Attorney's Office on Thursday charged Wai-Tat Fu, 47, of Mahomet with theft over $10,000, a Class 2 felony, and official misconduct, a Class 3 felony.
The charges allege that between November 2016 and September 2018, he stole money from the UI by submitting fraudulent and duplicate expenses. UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said Fu, an associate professor of computer science, was placed on administrative leave after the inappropriate reimbursements were uncovered during an internal audit.
UI police spokesman Pat Wade said auditors began their check of Fu's records in late 2018, comparing his travel vouchers against airline records to come up with about $16,000 that Fu allegedly pocketed. Wade said most of the expenses were for travel to conferences, including some to Hong Kong, New Orleans and Los Angeles.
Auditors brought their reports to UI police on Jan. 3. Police then investigated and sent the case to the state's attorney for charging.
Fu was placed on leave Feb. 6 and Kaler said he would remain on leave until the criminal case is resolved.
He was sent a summons to appear for arraignment May 8. The theft charge, the more serious, carries penalties ranging from probation to three to seven years in prison.
The official-misconduct charge alleges that while acting as a professor, he tried "to obtain personal advantage for himself" by submitting fraudulent and duplicate expense reports for which he sought reimbursement. Penalties for that range from probation to two to five years in prison.
The website for the UI's computer science department said Fu's research was in the areas of graphics, visualization and human-computer interaction.
He has been with the computer science department since 2010 but first joined the UI in 2006, working at the Institute of Aviation.