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MIT researcher charged with wire fraud after hiding work done for China

By David Schwartz
Published: January 19th, 2021

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher was charged last week with hiding work he did for the Chinese government while he was also collecting U.S. dollars for his nanotechnology research. Gang Chen, 56, was arrested by federal agents at his home in Cambridge on charges including wire fraud, officials said.

While working for MIT, Chen entered into undisclosed contracts and held appointments with Chinese entities, including acting as an “overseas expert” for the Chinese government, authorities allege. His work under those appointments was “expressly intended to further [China’s] scientific and technological goals,” court documents state.

Chen did not disclose his connections to China, as is required on federal grant applications, according to federal authorities. He and his research group collected about $29 million in foreign dollars, including millions from a Chinese government-funded university, while also receiving $19 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy for his work at MIT since 2013, according to U.S. authorities.

“It is not illegal to collaborate with foreign researchers. It is illegal to lie about it,” Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling told reporters. Along with fraud, Chen is charged with failing to file a foreign bank account report and making a false statement in a tax return. All told, the charges carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison and fines totaling $750,000.

Chen’s attorney said the professor “loves the United States and looks forward to vigorously defending these allegations.”

Gang was ordered released from custody after a hearing held via videoconference before a Boston federal court judge. The charges came after agents executed search warrants at his home and his MIT office, said Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the Boston FBI office.

MIT said it is “deeply distressed” by Chen’s arrest. “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,” the school said in a statement.

Sources: Boston and NBC Boston

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