Doctor Accused of Crimes Against Mice and Lab

Though not quite in the league of real estate, modeling and Wall Street, academic medicine is not immune to cutthroat behavior.

But what a researcher at Mount Sinai Medical Center is accused of doing might take back-stabbing to new heights, or lows. The authorities say the researcher, Dr. Mohsen Hosseinkhani, burglarized a hospital laboratory — twice — after being fired, taking valuable materials and sabotaging the lab mice by switching their name tags.

Dr. Hosseinkhani, 40, who was involved in cardiology research, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with burglary and grand larceny. His lawyer at his arraignment, Barry Apfelbaum, a public defender, said on Friday that Dr. Hosseinkhani’s friends had posted bail for him and he had been released.

The hospital released a statement saying only: “Mr. Mohsen Hosseinkhani was a post-doctoral fellow engaged in research until June 2011, and had no contact with patients. Mount Sinai will continue to cooperate with the investigation.” The hospital administration declined further comment.

The world of academic medicine was buzzing about Dr. Hosseinkhani’s arrest, which was reported in The New York Post, with some saying that his behavior reflected the competitive culture of the research world.

But Peter Palese, a prominent researcher and chairman of microbiology at Mount Sinai, said that while he had never met Dr. Hosseinkhani, he believed his behavior was unique to him.

“There are always bad apples everywhere,” Dr. Palese said. “But I don’t believe it has anything to do with general unhappiness or difficulty in the institution. I think cardiology is particularly good here.”

Dr. Hosseinkhani was fired in June because his work was not considered good enough and because he had been taking a lot of time off, the police said.

In July, he returned to the lab, and was able to gain entry because he had been fired by e-mail, not in person, and thus his identification had not been confiscated, the police said.

He stole “secret scientific material,” including stem cell cultures, antibodies, invitrogen and other items worth thousands of dollars, which he may have tried to sell in Russia, according to the police and the criminal complaint.

The police said he also switched the name tags on laboratory mice, possibly jeopardizing projects if researchers did not recognize the switch. It was unclear Friday what research the mice were being used for, or if the research had been compromised.

About 7 a.m. Monday, according to the complaint, Dr. Hosseinkhani again returned to the lab, at 1425 Madison Avenue, and stole pipettes worth more than $3,000. Someone noticed that he was not supposed to be there and notified hospital security, which asked him to come in for a meeting.

Dr. Hosseinkhani brought some of the items he was accused of stealing to the meeting, where the police, unbeknown to him, were waiting to arrest him.

In his LinkedIn biography, Dr. Hosseinkhani said he was educated at Harvard Medical School, but a Harvard spokesman said he could not find a university connection, though that did not rule out that he had participated in one of its programs.

In another biography, Dr. Hosseinkhani said he had been a research associate at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School, and had earned his M.D. from Tehran University and his Ph.D. in cardiovascular medicine from Kyoto University in Japan.

On Friday, Mr. Apfelbaum, who said he was no longer representing Dr. Hosseinkhani, said his former client did not deny, at least “to a certain extent,” that he had committed the acts he was accused of, but denied that it had been his intention to steal.

“He may not have performed his job duties up to their satisfaction, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fraud,” Mr. Apfelbaum said.

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