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Contractor sentenced for NIH theft

WASHINGTON — A former government subcontractor is being sent to prison for stealing $1.8 million to fund her extravagant lifestyle from the agency that seeks cures to life-threatening illnesses.

Nicole Shantelle Smith was sentenced to 20 months after pleading guilty to taking the funds meant for construction projects at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Prosecutors say the 38-year-old from Upper Marlboro, Md., used most of the money for indulgences including new homes, luxury cars, designer clothes, cosmetics and vacations to places like the Virgin Islands and Hawaii.

Smith also was ordered to pay back all the money she stole between 2004 and 2007, when she was responsible for helping administer the NIH projects. Prosecutors say NIH used money that would have gone to biomedical research to cover the losses.