Scientist suspected in $22K lab equipment theft

A Yale scientist is under suspicion of stealing laboratory equipment, and police have searched his house for evidence.

The suspect is Lars Branden, until recently the director of the Yale Center for High Throughput Cell Biology, who started working at the University’s West Campus in 2008. Yale Police searched Branden’s house in Woodbridge, Conn., on June 5 and again three weeks ago, seizing three boxes of science equipment allegedly stolen from the University and valued at $22,000.

According to police documents, detectives searched Branden’s house as part of a first-degree larceny investigation, but they have yet to charge him with a crime.

Police discovered the alleged theft after Branden’s wife, Sara Branden, came to them with information about the crime and other alleged misdeeds in Branden’s past.

Branden’s wife is in the process of divorcing her husband, saying in court documents that he is a “con man.” She claims Branden cleaned out the couple’s and her parents’ bank accounts, stealing $150,000. She now believes Branden, a native of Sweden, only married her in 2006 to get a green card, according to the documents.

On June 1, Sara Branden shared with police pictures of the equipment allegedly stolen from Yale and kept in the basement and garage of Branden’s Woodbridge house. According to police documents, the pictures showed equipment with serial numbers that proved it belonged to West Campus.

According to the New Haven Register, Branden’s wife said her husband was dismissed by Yale in 2009 not in relation to the alleged theft but due to complaints about his behavior and alleged threats made to colleagues.

Michael Donoghue, vice president for West Campus planning and program development, said last week that he did not know “a single thing” about the allegations against Branden. University spokesman Tom Conroy said Yale has no comment to add to the information in court and police documents.

Branden had previously worked at the Swedish Karolinska Institute and Columbia University, where he was recruited by Yale to come work at the University’s West Campus complex. A Columbia spokeswoman said the university cannot give out information about former employees.

Nora Caplan-Bricker and Lindsay Gellman contributed reporting.

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