Former Yale-NYU Psychiatric Researcher Alexander Neumeister Convicted, Sentenced

October 15, 2018

On Wednesday October 10, 2018, a U.S. District Court judge sentenced psychiatric researcher Alexander Neumeister to an unusual term of community service following his conviction for theft of government funds. 

Neumeister, who was born and educated in Austria, was a top psychiatry professor and researcher at New York University School of Medicine (NYU) from 2011 to 2015. He was found to have stolen $87,000 in university grant funds, which he used to pay for air travel and vacation accommodations for himself, his family, and a friend. He later classified these purchases as being work-related.

In seeking leniency for their client, Neumeister's defense attorneys had disclosed to the court that Neumeister had been an obsessive pianist earlier in his life, practicing up to six hours a day. The judge sentenced Neumeister to play the piano at least twice weekly for the next three years at group facilities for indigent elderly people in Connecticut (where he resides) to make amends.

However, this was not an isolated incident for the now disgraced psych researcher. 

From 2004 to 2010, Neumeister was also employed by Yale, where he was the Director of the school's Molecular Imaging program, studying Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Court records show that he'd engaged in similar illegal behavior, using grant money to pay for personal extravagances. Yale dismissed him in 2010 after he'd repaid $76,000 he stole. His conduct at Yale was not part of the criminal case against him. 

Concurrent with his prosecution for the NYU grant theft, the school shut down eight studies for which Neumeister was principal investigator. The studies were to test an experimental mind-altering drug in the alleviation of symptoms of PTSD. A subsequent investigation BY THE us fda found lax oversight of study participants, falsified records, and researchers' failure to keep accurate case histories of participants--violations which “jeopardize subject safety and welfare, and raise concerns about the validity and integrity of the data collected at your site,” the FDA said in its February 19, 2016 Warning Letter to Neumeister. 

It is reported that Dr. Charles Marmar, the chairman of the NYU's psychiatry department stated that individuals working on the studies with Neumeister had reported concerns about the lab’s compliance with research standards. After the university confirmed some of these issues raised, it placed Neumeister on leave and suspended all activity on the studies he was leading. Neumeister later submitted his resignation.

Source:  “Ex-researcher who stole funds sentenced to play piano,” Associated Press, October 11, 2018; "Yale Researcher Ordered To Play Piano For Three Years As Punishment For Stealing Government Funds," Hartford Courant, October 11, 2018; and "An N.Y.U. Study Gone Wrong, and a Top Researcher Dismissed," New York Times, June 27, 2016


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