A researcher and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was arrested on Thursday on charges that he failed to disclose his ties to the Chinese government when seeking federal grant money.
Federal prosecutors in Boston on Thursday charged Gang Chen, a Chinese-born mechanical engineer and nanotechnologist, with wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return.
"MIT was deeply distressed by the arrest of Professor Gang Chen this morning," a spokesperson for the university told FOX Business. "MIT believes the integrity of research is a fundamental responsibility, and we take seriously concerns about improper influence in U.S. research. Prof. Chen is a long-serving and highly respected member of the research community, which makes the government’s allegations against him all the more distressing. We are not able to offer any further information related to the government’s complaint at this time."
According to a criminal complaint, Chen was allegedly involved in various efforts to promote China's technological and scientific development, including acting as an "overseas expert" for the Chinese government at the request of its New York consulate and serving as a member of China's Thousand Talents program.
Since approximately 2013, Chen’s research at MIT has been funded by more than $19 million in grants awarded by various U.S. federal agencies. Chen had also allegedly received $29 million in foreign funding, including $19 million from China's Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech).
While serving in several advisory roles for China between 2017 and 2019, Chen had applied for and obtained a grant from the Department of Energy in order to fund a portion of his research at MIT. In doing so, prosecutors said he failed to disclose information about his ongoing affiliations with China as required by law.
In addition, Chen also allegedly failed to disclose to the IRS in his 2018 tax return that he maintained a Chinese bank account with more than $10,000 in 2018.
The wire fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of making false statements provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of failing to file a foreign bank account report carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
On Thursday, President Trump signed the National Security Presidential Memorandum on supporting United States research and development, which outlines how the Chinese are attempting to steal technology, including through China's Thousand Talents program.
The memorandum also offers recommendations for universities, private companies, and non profits that may get federal grants or money for research and development to protect U.S. intellectual property and prevent research misappropriation. If the recommendations are not followed, federal funding will be withheld.
Fox Business' Edward Lawrence contributed to this report