ECE professor arrested on racketeering charges

On Friday, Sept. 24, three Tech employees turned themselves into the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office to face racketeering charges. Joy Laskar, a professor in the ECE department, research engineer Stephane Pinel and office administrator Chris Evans were each charged with violating the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act, or racketeering.

Arrest warrants were obtained by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in connection with an ongoing investigation into misappropriation of funds and resources from the school’s Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC), where Laskar served as Director.

Laskar and Pinel, along with several other researchers were credited with a microchip breakthrough, but were put under investigation when internal auditors spotted strange financial transfers to a Sayana Wireless, a wireless company co-owned by Laskar and Pinel. The GBI investigation was requested by Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker this past April after Tech’s Department of Internal Auditing uncovered evidence of the alleged misappropriations.

“We began an investigation, used the information that the auditors here at Georgia Tech uncovered and were able to get search warrants that were executed [last May],” said John Bankhead, GBI spokesman.

GBI agents and university police and auditors raided Laskar’s midtown office in May. GBI agents removed more than a dozen computers from 10-different offices in the Centergy Center. Some of the offices belonged to the GEDC run by Tech.

According to state authorities Laskar, Pinel and Evans illegally funneled an estimated $2 million from Tech to Sayana Wireless LLC.

Laskar founded several other companies, including RF Solutions, a fabless semiconductor company, and Quellan Inc., a specialized analog integrated circuit company. Mark Hobaugh, Vice President of Operations at Quellan Inc, declined to comment.

Laskar’s position as Director of the Georgia Electronic Design Center has been filled by Mark Allen, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Innovation. Laskar is listed only as a Professor of ECE in the Tech database and is no longer listed under the ECE Faculty profiles. It is unclear whether Laskar, Pinel and Evans will be asked to permanently vacate their positions.

“Dr. Joy Laskar is a tenured faculty member and was advised of the Institute’s intent to initiate dismissal proceedings on June 15, 2010,” Lisa Grovenstein, Director of Public Relations at Tech said in a statement. “Dr. Laskar has requested a formal hearing as provided in the Faculty Handbook.”

Captain R. Weaver of the GTPD Criminal Investigations Division said that the GTPD has turned over all evidence to the GBI.

“The GBI is in charge of the investigation,” Weaver said. “They took control of the investigation after out initial involvement back in April and May.”