FAIRMONT, W.VA. -- NBC News reported Wednesday a former international epidemiology professor falsified both his academic research and his credentials when hired by West Virginia University in 2012.

But, the network added, the school refuses to publicly address the matter or even alert other colleges to his deception.

The network said the discrepancies turned up during an 18-month investigation into the background of Prof. Anoop Shankar, a native of India who was chosen for the first endowed position – “Chair of Excellence” -- at WVU’s new School of Public Health.

NBC said Shankar was forced to resign from WVU in January of 2013 after Prof. Ian Rockett, chairman of the school’s promotion and tenure committee, questioned the validity of Shankar’s resume and research.

The network said Shankar was recruited to the tax-funded chair position as a “star professor” who would improve health care in West Virginia and elsewhere by attracting millions of dollars in federal grants for medical research.

“I have never wittingly seen his kind before,” Rockett told NBC.

Yet 18 months later, the NBC report said, university officials, including President Jim Clements, refuse to explain their actions.

The network quoted a UVW spokesman as saying officials could not discuss the case because it involved confidential personnel matters “and the university does not discuss these publicly.” The spokesman also said WVU had “shared its discoveries with law enforcement.”

NBC said inquiries by Rockett determined that Shankar falsely claimed he had a Ph. D. in epidemiology from the Mahatma Gandhi University, the Harvard of India; that he had a medical degree from the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, and that he had forged immigration green card references to “world class creativity,” “genius insight” and “a new avenue for treating hypertension.”

The network said Shankar earned a master’s degree in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina and an Indian medical degree from Kottayam Medical College in Kerala, India. He was working as an associate professor at the National University of Singapore at the time of his hire by WVU.

NBC said WVU’s Office of Research Integrity produced evidence of about 30 examples of false publications of research on Shankar’s resume in addition to those turned up by Rockett during his inquiry. His research at WVU on linking popcorn to heart disease and the plastic chemical BPA to diabetes received national publicity.

At the height of his inquiry, Rockett was accused by two student friends of Shankar with making an improper sexual advance. A university investigation determined there was “no evidence” to support the claim, and Shankar resigned shortly afterwards -- only to emerge a few months later as an associate professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He no longer works there. 

Rockett filed a defamation lawsuit against Shankar and the students. NBC said Shankar paid Rockett $45,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

The network said Rockett’s background report and several of Shankar’s colleagues described him as a “charming, bright-minded impostor who built a career on a base of lies.”

Misty Poe is the editor of the Times West Virginian in Fairmont, W. Va. Contact her at mope@timeswv.com.

The full NBC News report can be read here: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ivory-tower-phony-sex-lies-fraud-alleged-w-va-university-n199491

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