Former UNC professor to plead not guilty to fraud

Dec. 03, 2013 @ 06:19 PM

Julius Nyang’oro, former chairman of African and Afro-American studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, will plead not guilty to fraud and vigorously fight the accusations against him, his attorney said Tuesday.

Nyang’oro was indicted Monday by an Orange County Grand Jury for allegedly accepting $12,000 for classes that weren’t held.

He surrendered to authorities Tuesday morning and was released on $30,000 bond.

Tuesday afternoon, Nyang’oro appeared in Orange County District Court, where his next court date was set for Dec. 17.

He said nothing in court or to reporters as he and his wife walked into the Orange County Courthouse with his attorneys, Bill Thomas and Butch Williams.

“He’s going to contest these charges and will enter a plea of not guilty,” Thomas said after the hearing. “There’s been one side of the story that's been put forth in the press, but he’s going to have an opportunity to present his side in court.”

Nyang’oro, 59, resigned in August as chairman of the department, which was at the center of an investigation into academic fraud involving UNC football players.

He is charged with obtaining property by false pretenses.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Nyang’oro is accused of taking $12,000 for classes he didn't teach at the university. He said that if convicted, Nyang’oro has a low chance of prison time, with a minimum of four months of probation and maximum of 30 months in prison.

Woodall said one more person might be indicted in January in connection with the case. He said the person is not a current UNC employee.

UNC recouped the money paid to Nyang’oro for the courses by later docking his pay.

The African and Afro-American Studies Department at UNC was being investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation following claims of possible criminal misconduct by professors paid for classes they weren’t teaching.

Woodall’s investigation also looked into whether anyone tried to cover up crimes in the department and if anyone illegally changed grades and committed fraud.

A probe led by former Gov. Jim Martin that delved back to 1997 found more than 200 courses offered in the department involved little or no instruction.

The investigation found more than 400 suspected unauthorized grade changes.