A federal investigation into happenings at Wright State University may be coming to an end after more than three years.
Today, the Wright State board of trustees unanimously agreed to a non-prosecution agreement over possible immigration-related wrongdoing with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and will pay $1 million.
The federal government will not pursue criminal or civil prosecution as part of the deal. Wright State will pay a total of $1 million over three installments and agrees to cooperate in any additional investigations stemming from the more than three-year federal investigation into possible H-1B visa misuse.
The deal also contains a number of other stipulations.
Here’s a timeline of the more than three years the investigation has been going on for.
2007 – Sundaram Narayanan co-founded the Wright State Research Institute with WSU president Dave Hopkins. Narayanan became executive director of WSRI, the university’s applied research arm, as well as a professor and later dean of the college of engineering and computer science.
October 2010 – The Dayton-based information technology staffing firm Web Yoga awarded Wright State Research Institute $413,463 for “Web Yoga System Development”
October 2010 – Wright State is approved to hire a pair of software developers under work visas. Their salary was $40,000 and their listed work location was at Web Yoga.
November 2010 – Phani Kidambi earns his PhD from Wright State University. He was employed at WSRI as an associate researcher, working for WSRI director Ryan Fendley, who reported to Narayanan.
December 2010 – Web Yoga president Vijay Vallabhaneni signs a contract with WSRI to develop SpiderXchange. The project hopes to employ up to 60 people, eight of whom were named in the contract and hired by Wright State – seven under work visas. Kidambi is listed as project manager.
December 2010 – Web Yoga awards WSRI $1.5 million for “Web Yoga SpiderXchange System.”
January 2011 – WSRI gets approval to hire software developers on H-1B visas. The applications are filled out by university general counsel Gwen Mattison. The university is exempt from limits and wage requirements for foreign workers that Web Yoga would have faced. From 2010 through early 2012, at least 19 visas will be authorized for people working at Web Yoga.
January 2013 – A Web Yoga employee emails Kidambi to inform him of the last day of several Web Yoga employees.
March 2013 – Narayanan is promoted to university provost, making him second-in charge of the university.
April 2013 – Narayanan promoted Fendley to senior advisor to the provost.
July 2013 – Kidambi is named director of Wright State International Gateway, the department tasked with recruiting international students. Kidambi also taught as a lecturer, worked on research projects worth millions of dollars and received glowing performance reviews.
May 2015 – Narayanan, Fendley, Kidambi and Mattison are all placed on paid administrative leave – with monthly salaries of $66,979 combined – pending internal and outside investigations.
June 2015 – This newspaper reported the administrators were suspended. The university refused to comment on the reason for the suspensions, but hired an outside law firm and forensic accounting firm to advise them on “immigration matters” and an internal investigation.
August 2015 – Wright state fires Fendley, demotes Narayanan and Kidambi from their administrative roles but leaves them on paid leave as faculty members, and signs a $300,000 separation agreement with Mattison.
August 2015 – This newspaper requests records on H-1B visas obtained by WSRI and contracts with several companies that had contracts for foreign workers with WSRI. A week later, Wright State confirms it is under federal investigation for possible violations of H-1B rules requiring workers employed by Wright State under visas to work at WSU.
March 2017 – Wright State names Cheryl Schrader of the Missouri University of Science and Technology as the school’s next president.
March 2017 – Wright State president David Hopkins abruptly resigns from office amid controversy and financial issues.
April 2017 – Wright State trustees released a 104-page audit that painted a picture of conflicts of interest, lack of fiscal controls and mismanagement.
April 2017 – Gov. John Kasich blasts WSU administration for its “disturbing, long-running practice of seeking to prop itself up by cultivating a regime of secrecy that allowed it to conceal problems from key leaders.”
August 2017 – Kidambi resigns from the university, records show.
October 2017 – Wright State, which had fired Fendley, settles a lawsuit with him for $13,209. Fendley had claimed WSU failed to pay him under a contract he had in addition to his full-time job.
October 2017 – The Air Force Office of Special Investigations joins several agencies inlcuding the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Ohio Attorney General, Auditor of State and NASA in investigating Wright State for issues related to H-1B visa fraud that may have occurred at the school.
June 2018 – Wright State’s board of trustees agreed to fire Narayanan after being on paid leave for three years.
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