Georgia Tech professor pleads guilty to tax fraud, scheduled for sentencing

John Crittenden, a professor of environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the former director of the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, has entered a guilty plea for tax fraud after falsely inflating his charitable deductions on his tax returns. The charges stem from a tax fraud scheme involving Chinese nationals, according to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.

Crittenden's guilty plea has sent shockwaves through the academic and legal communities, highlighting the consequences of attempting to manipulate the tax system. Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, emphasized the FBI's determination to uncover and prosecute those who undermine the tax return system.

"No matter the scheme or amount, do not falsify your tax returns," warned IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Demetrius Hardeman. "This guilty plea is evidence that fraud does not pay."

The charges against Crittenden, 73, revolve around his academic research focused on scalable water treatment systems and technologies, which led to his close connections with China due to his position at Georgia Tech and research collaborations.

While working at Georgia Tech in the United States, Crittenden partnered with a Chinese national, Duo Li, to operate several companies in China, including Beijing Keruiduo Environmental, Beijing Crittenden Environmental Technology Company, and Kunshan Techfirst. These companies, along with individuals associated with Duo Li, wired substantial sums of money to the charitable donation arm of Georgia Tech, the Georgia Institute of Technology Foundation (GTF), or directly to Crittenden's Bank of America account, which he then labeled as charitable donations on his tax returns. Notably, Crittenden failed to recognize any of these transfers as income.

Furthermore, Crittenden received transfers from Chinese nationals participating in post-doctoral research at Georgia Tech or their family members. He subsequently labeled these funds as charitable donations to GTF while evading taxes on the income. Neither Georgia Tech nor GTF were aware of Crittenden's tax fraud activities.

In his plea agreement, Crittenden has committed to resign from all employment positions at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Georgia Tech Research Institute, pay all taxes owed for tax years 2011 through 2021, and fully cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service in determining the taxes, penalties, and interest he owes.

Crittenden is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 16, 2024, at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May.