Georgia Tech professor pleads guilty to tax fraud

ATLANTA – John Crittenden, a professor of environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the former director of the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, has pleaded guilty to tax fraud for lying on his tax returns by overstating his charitable deductions.

“Charitable giving is a virtue. But Crittenden avoided paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes by lying about his charitable deductions to perpetrate a tax fraud scheme involving Chinese nationals,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Because of his actions Crittenden will no longer be employed by the university and will also be required to pay all taxes owed.”

“Crittenden’s guilty plea is the result of the determination and hard work of federal investigators and prosecutors who aggressively pursue allegations of tax fraud,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is determined to root out and prosecute anyone who would try to undermine the tax return system.”

“No matter the scheme or amount, do not falsify your tax returns,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Demetrius Hardeman.  “We have an incredible team of talented, intelligent agents trained to investigate these tax fraud schemes.  Crittenden not only has to make amends by paying his owed taxes, but he also faces jail time, fines, and penalties for his decisions.  This guilty plea is evidence that fraud does not pay.”            

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: John Crittenden’s academic research focused on scalable water treatment systems and technologies. Crittenden had deep ties to China, in part due to his position at Georgia Tech and his research.

While employed at Georgia Tech and living in the United States, Crittenden partnered with a Chinese national, Duo Li, to operate several companies in China, including Beijing Keruiduo Environmental, Beijing Crittenden Environmental Technology Company, and Kunshan Techfirst. These companies, as well as individuals associated with Duo Li, wired hundreds of thousands of dollars either directly to the charitable donation arm of Georgia Tech, the Georgia Institute of Technology Foundation (GTF), or to Crittenden’s Bank of America account, after which he “donated” the funds to GTF. When the funds arrived at GTF, they were earmarked for Crittenden’s use at Georgia Tech. Regardless of how the funds reached GTF, Crittenden improperly and falsely claimed the transfers to GTF as charitable deductions on his tax returns without recognizing any of the transfers as income.

Crittenden also received transfers to his Bank of America account from Chinese nationals who were participating in post-doctoral research at Georgia Tech or their family members. Crittenden then “donated” these funds to GTF and improperly and falsely took a charitable deduction on his tax returns, while not recognizing any of the funds as income. Neither Georgia Tech nor GTF were aware that Crittenden was conducting this tax fraud scheme.

As part of the plea agreement, prior to sentencing, Crittenden must resign from all positions of employment at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Georgia Tech Research Institute, pay all taxes owed for tax years 2011 through 2021, and fully cooperate with the Examination Division of the Internal Revenue Service in making a complete and accurate determination of all taxes, penalties, and interest that Crittenden owes.

Sentencing for Crittenden, 73, of Atlanta, Georgia, is scheduled for January 16, 2024, at 10:00 am before U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May. Crittenden pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with making a false statement on a tax return, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(1).

This case is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Samir Kaushal is prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

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