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Dec 04, 2013 01:46 PM EST

UNC Academic Scandal Update: Former Chapel Hill Professor To Fight Fraud Charges Involving Giving Grades Student-Athletes Without Holding Class


Julius Nyang'Oro, a former professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, is set to fight felony fraud charges in court over an academic scandal in which he allegedly played a central role.

The former chairman of the school's Department of African and Afro-American Studies pled not guilty after a hearing Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. He Nyang'Oro is facing accusations he accepted $12,000 to teach a lecture course and held no classes, but the students in the course, all student-athletes, still received grades.

The former professor turned himself in Tuesday and his attorney, Bill Thomas, confirmed they would be pleading not guilty. Nyang'Oro, whose next court date was set for Dec. 17, was later released on $30,000 bond.

The school has recovered the $12,000 but, if convicted, the ex-teacher could be sentenced to ten months in prison.

According to the Daily Tar Heel, Nyang'Oro was indicted Monday by a grand jury for accepting $12,000 worth of property under false pretenses, when he administered grades after never holding a class meeting. According to court documents, it is a class H felony that violates North Carolina statutes for accepting money and knowingly defrauding the giver.

UNC-Chapel Hill asked Nyang'Oro to retire in 2011 amidst an investigation that found he allegedly set up multiple courses that met inconsistently or not at all. What's more is that the classes were usually made up of mostly, if not entirely, student-athletes. The course in question, "Blacks in North Carolina," was made up entirely of Tar Heel student-athletes.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall told the DTH there could potentially be one more indictment of a former employee, but that punishment would likely be probation at the most. Nyang'Oro's indictment is the result of a State Bureau of Investigations probe that lasted about a year and a half.

"What people have to understand is the investigation started in 2012, and they were investigating things that took place years ago," Woodall said. "As a matter of fact, the lead investigator and I, just a few weeks ago, just decided to close it down because there was still information coming in."

UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement following Nyang'Oro's indictment that the school would not comment on an ongoing legal matter.

 "We don't know the full extent of the court's evidence. It's their own separate process," she told reporters. "We won't be commenting further."

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