Autism Researcher Accused of Embezzling Over $1 Million from Research Grant

Apr 18, 2011
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When there are breakthroughs in autism research, it’s pretty exciting. It’s also not like the money is raining down from heaven to do this research. But how low can a person go?

Atlanta Unfiltered brings the disheartening news of a Danish autism researcher who was indicted for allegedly stealing $1 million in American grant money intended for autism research. A federal grand jury indicted Poul Thorsen, 49, on 13 counts of wire fraud and nine counts of money laundering in connection with a scheme in which he fraudulently billed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant program for more than $1 million.

Thorsen used the money to buy a home, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, both an Audi and a Honda vehicle, and converted some of the other money into numerous cashier’s checks. He was working as a visiting scientist at the CDC, the Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, when the CDC was soliciting grant applications for research related to infant disabilities. He got the Atlanta-based CDC to award $11 million in grants to the Danish government from 2000 to 2009. The grants were supposed to be used for autism research, specifically designed to “study the relationship between autism and exposure to vaccines, between cerebral palsy and infection during pregnancy, and between childhood development and fetal alcohol exposure.”

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Grant money for disease research is a precious commodity.  When grant funds are stolen, we lose not only the money, but also the opportunity to better understand and cure debilitating diseases. This defendant is alleged to have orchestrated a scheme to steal over $1 million in CDC grant money earmarked for autism research.  We will now seek the defendant’s extradition for him to face federal charges in the United States.”

The story gets even more twisted when considering the details reports by HuffPost which quotes the stolen funds at closer to $2 million. Thorsen’s research findings were key to the CDC’s claims disputing the link between vaccines and autism and other neurological disorders. His studies claimed that MMR vaccine and mercury-laden vaccines were safe for all children. In fact, Thorsen’s 2003 Danish study actually reported “a 20-fold increase in autism in Denmark after that country banned mercury based preservatives in its vaccines.” Therefore, Thorsen claimed that mercury could not be the culprit behind the autism epidemic.

CDC has long touted the study as the principal proof that mercury-laced vaccines are safe for infants and young children. Mainstream media, particularly the New York Times, has relied on this study as the basis for its public assurances that it is safe to inject young children with mercury — a potent neurotoxin — at concentrations hundreds of times over the U.S. safety limits.

Author: Tessa