Vermont Veterans Administration psychiatrist William Weeks on trial on federal conflict of interest charges

April 13, 2010

A psychiatrist from Lyme, N.H., is on trial for allegedly violating federal conflict of interest laws.

In 2003, roughly $1.5 million in contracts were allocated by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction to Dartmouth College. But prosecutors say some of that money went into Doctor William Weeks' pocket, rather than into research as it was intended.

Most of Tuesday focused on a government witness who overseas hundreds of contracts at the VA Medical Center. It's several of those contracts, requested by Dr. Weeks, that are at the center of Tuesday's testimony and the trial.

While working for both the VA Medical Center and Dartmouth College, prosecutors say Weeks exploited a college policy which allows professors to transfer excess money from research contracts into personal accounts. It's standard practice at Dartmouth, but what prosecutors say is not standard is the way Weeks got the money.

Federal officials say Weeks acted as the contracting officer for the VA and the principle investor for Dartmouth College on several different contract applications without informing either party. Prosecutors also say Weeks negotiated, monitored, and authorized payments between the VA and Dartmouth College in which Weeks knew he had a financial interest.

Federal officials say Weeks used some of the money for personal reasons. However, attorneys for Weeks say that the facts in the case do not support the allegations.

Weeks seemed composed Tuesday even though he faces up to a year in jail for each of the five counts he faces.

Asked how he thought the trial was going, Weeks replied, "It's going as we expected."

So far, hundreds of exhibits have been entered and federal prosecutors have called three witnesses to the stand. The trial is expected to last at least a week.

Officials from the VA declined to comment while the trial is ongoing. Dartmouth College officials also did not comment on the case, but did release a statement saying the college "long ago adopted and conscientiously enforces a comprehensive set of policies on conflict of interest, management of grants and contracts, and professional use of research funds."

Source: Adam Sullivan, "Did VA doctor pocket research money?," WCAX News, Brattleboro, VT,  April 13, 2010



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