Silicon Valley biotech companies busted for fraud

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Two Silicon Valley biotechnology companies and their co-founder must pay more than $10 million to the United States to resolve fraud allegations. 

Dr. Paul Andrew Rhodes co-founded two technology companies, iSense, and Specific Diagnostics. 

iSense designs and develops applications for colorimetric sensor arrays and Specific designs for antimicrobial susceptibility tests.

“This office continues to combat fraud wherever it lurks in Silicon Valley,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds. “Federal awards for biotech research are a critical aspect of this country’s strategy to promote and support innovation and research.  Regrettably, some recipients mislead auditors and divert funds to enrich themselves.”

Dr. Rhodes, iSense, and Specific entered into a settlement to resolve allegations that the firms mischarged federal grants by billing for costs incurred by another business. 

Under the settlement, iSense will pay $4 million, Specific will pay $4 million and Dr. Rhodes to pay $2,068,875.

Rhodes and the biotech companies allegedly billed the Department of Defense and others for disallowed, unreasonable, or mischaracterized costs.

According to the allegations, from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2019, iSense knowingly misallocated to itself costs incurred by Specific. Rhodes partially owned both companies. In one example, iSense shared office space with Specific, but the costs for that space were allocated to iSense, and submitted for payment under DOD grants.  The United States also alleges that iSense and Rhodes knowingly submitted backdated cost-sharing agreements with Specific to the federal government. 

According to Rhodes’ biography on Specific’s website, he holds degrees in physics and neuroscience from Harvard University and Stanford University.

The investigation and settlement resulted from a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, DCIS, and the Major Procurement Fraud Field Office of Army-CID.  


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.