Just a few months ago, Reston resident Nabih E. Bedewi was at the pinnacle of his 14-year career as an engineering and applied science professor at George Washington University.
As director of the university's federally-funded National Crash Analysis Center in Ashburn, Bedewi, 40, had been featured in profiles by international news organizations, highlighting the cutting-edge, life-saving technology his research team was pioneering.
He had just closed on a $2.29 million mansion in McLean, drove a Jaguar between his offices in Virginia and Washington, D.C., held season tickets to the Redskins, and was owner or director of at least three multi-million dollar transportation subcontracting firms.
But Bedewi's life of academic and business success began to unravel when at GWU internal audit uncovered that he had awarded a $2.8 million subcontract to International Transportation Safety Corporation, his own Reston-based business.
"Through a routine review, we uncovered a red flag that signaled a potential conflict of interest," said Tracy Schario, a GWU spokeswoman.
The university forwarded its findings to the investigative office of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which provides 80 percent of the GWU crash center's funding.
The federal investigation revealed that the potential conflict of interest was just the start of Bedewi's troubles.
Bedewi's firm, ITSC, it turned out, was listed as being located at his father-in-law's house on Tournament Drive in Reston, with Bedewi and his wife named as the firm's president and vice president. A third person, "David Rawlings" was listed as the general manager, though investigators believe Rawlings does not actually exist, according to court documents.
And, the investigators believe, Bedewi used the company to fraudulently obtain at least $595,333 in federal money for work that was never performed.
LAST WEEK, Bedewi was arrested and charged in the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C. with embezzling the nearly $600,000 from December 2002 and April 1 of this year. At his preliminary hearing at the end of next month, he will face up to 10 years in prison and the possible seizure of his $2.29 million house at Silent Ridge Court in McLean.
Bedewi allegedly used the federal money to buy his Redskins season tickets, make three monthly payments on his car, help pay for a Florida condominium and to pay off his family members' credit card balance, according to court documents.
Investigators also believe that Bedewi inappropriately arranged for his brother's wife to get more than $36,000 in stipend payments at the GWU crash research center by falsely listing her as a graduate student.
BEDEWI RESIGNED from his job at GWU in June and now works as a consultant. He is living at his father-in-law's home in Reston, according to court documents.
The GWU center he ran is located at the university's Virginia campus in Ashburn, just off Route 7, and at outdoor testing facilities in McLean. Its primary mission is to study the roles of vehicles, occupants and roadside hardware, such as guardrails or mailboxes, in automobile crashes and to conduct statistical analyses of crash and injury data using computer modeling technology.
The center has recently investigated seat belt usage and has also tested security barriers intended to protect government buildings from bomb attacks.
Plans to build the center a new state-of-the-art research facility at GWU's Ashburn campus have been put on hold, Schario said.
While Bedewi's alleged crimes will not help the center and its work, Schario said, she is confident it will overcome its current troubles.
"The center as a whole still has a very good reputation," she said. "In regards to our confidence, we believe the Federal Highway Administration and the university will continue to have that relationship and continue to do their work. They'll be able to move past this."
Bedewi's attorney, Robert Trout, declined to comment for this article. Bedewi, who was released on his own recognizance after his initial court appearance last week, did not return phone calls for comment. A woman who answered the phone at his home said he was not speaking to reporters.