Courtest of Alexander Neumeister

Alexander Neumeister, a former associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, was sentenced to play the piano last Wednesday after pleading guilty in June to stealing government funds.

Neumeister was a psychiatry professor at the New York University School of Medicine from 2011 to 2015. According to his guilty plea, Neumeister stole $87,000 from NYU as well as from other grant programs from 2012 to 2014. During his time as a researcher at Yale from 2004 to 2010, Neumeister was also required to repay $76,000 he stole from the University. Still, the charges launched against Neumeister stemmed solely from his conduct at NYU, according to a 2017 press release from the Department of Justice of the Southern District of New York.

Neumeister’s crimes landed him an atypical sentence. According to the AP story, he now must play the piano for an hour at least twice a week for three years to elderly people in facilities across Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Haven and Hartford. The same story noted that U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres said that pre-sentencing material alerted her to Neumeister’s background as a trained pianist.

“The Court’s sentence recognizes the extent to which Dr. Neumeister accepted responsibility for his mistakes [and] made amends and [recognizes] his record of remarkable positive contributions to scientific knowledge and public health,” Justine Harris, his lawyer, told the News.

According to the 2017 Department of Justice press release, Neumeister’s supervisor questioned him regarding an audit of a credit card given to the researcher by NYU. Neumeister responded with a request that the result of the audit remain private so it would not affect his career or family. He also said he would repay certain expenses attached to the credit card. Yet, at the time of the press release, he had not paid any of the funds and began to deny allegations regarding his conduct.

While at NYU, Neumeister misused thousands of dollars, spending the funds on personal activities. Specifically, the press release said he allegedly used an estimated $9,000 to repeatedly visit one particular friend in Salt Lake City and used school funds to finance a nine-day vacation on a resort in Miami Beach for the friend. Neumeister originally falsely identified the friend as a research study participant to justify the expense.

Yale’s spokespeople declined to comment on Neumeister.

Chair of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine John Krystal did not disclose when the medical school found out about Neumeister’s illicit activities, nor did he say how the medical school responded to his actions. But Krystal spoke highly of Neumeister’s research ethic during his time at Yale.

“Neumeister was a very talented and productive psychiatric research scientist,” Krystal said. “We recruited him to Yale from the Intramural Program of the National Institute of Mental Health, where he had used brain imaging research in studies of the neurobiology of mood and anxiety disorders.”

At Yale, Neumeister directed the Molecular Imaging Program of the Clinical Neuroscience Division. As a prominent researcher, he received awards, including a five-year, $600,000 Investigator Award that he intended to use to study the relationship between stress and trauma and the risk of depression, according to the School of Medicine’s website.

According to Krystal, Neumeister left the University for a position at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and began his work at NYU soon after.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu