A University of Georgia fisheries professor allegedly benefitted from sales of caviar from sturgeon raised by the school, the Athens Banner-Herald reports. The professor, Douglas Peterson, and his wife, UGA microbiology professor Joy Peterson, are accused of buying a boat with school funds then employing it for personal use, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
Douglas Peterson is in charge of the school’s program to raise Siberian sturgeon and sell the caviar in order to help protect wild sturgeon populations while also making a profit, the Banner-Herald notes. Wild Siberian sturgeon are endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
But Peterson, not just wild sturgeon populations, may have profited from the school’s caviar operation. According to a sworn affidavit by a GBI special agent, Peterson had asked his boss for a personal cut from the program’s caviar profits, the Banner-Herald reports. After his boss rejected the proposal, according to the affidavit, Peterson began charging a consulting fee for the caviar sales he arranged.
“The affidavit notes that UGA caviar was being sold to a company in Texas for $35 an ounce, but $15 from each ounce sold was diverted to JDP Investments, a Florida incorporated business that listed Joy Peterson as an ‘authorized member’ and identified her father as the company’s manager,” the Banner-Herald reports, adding that the company’s mailing address was the Petersons’ Florida home.
In 2013, Douglas Peterson allegedly bought a boat using money from various UGA accounts as well as from a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources grant, according to the affidavit. He allegedly also used a school expense card to buy fishing line and pay Florida storage fees for the boat.
Peterson, in a statement, claims that he did not realize his actions were wrong and that his wife “had nothing to do with any of this and is totally innocent,” the Banner-Herald notes. The 53-year-old plans to retire this Wednesday (October 31), a UGA spokesperson tells the Banner-Herald.