- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

As a specialist on fuel cell technology in the U.S. Department of Transportation, Shang Hsiung traveled the country for years to attend trade conferences to discuss alternative fuel and other agency initiatives.

But federal authorities say the 54-year-old Takoma Park man had another agenda during his out-of-town trips.

Since 2001, prosecutors say, Mr. Hsiung used counterfeit checks and stolen credit-card information — including co-workers’ card numbers — to pay for escort services while on government travel.

Mr. Hsiung, who has been placed on leave and has declined to comment, is scheduled to appear for a hearing in federal court in the District next month. He was charged with wire fraud last week.

If convicted, Mr. Hsiung faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Charging documents do not state how much money investigators think was stolen over the years. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the District said the amount is not yet part of the public record but “is in the thousands of dollars.”

The charges filed Sept. 11 state that Mr. Hsiung “stole credit card numbers and credit card information from co-workers at the Department of Transportation and from other people … to purchase the services of escorts.”

G. Allen Dale, Mr. Hsiung’s attorney, said yesterday that there are “two sides” to the story.

“Often times, good people make mistakes,” he said. “My job is to make sure that this person, whom I view as a good person, doesn’t pay for it more than necessary.”

From his office in the District, Mr. Hsiung used his government computer to find escort services in anticipation of trips, Jonathan R. Barr, assistant U.S. attorney in the fraud and public corruption section, wrote in charging documents.

Mr. Hsiung, a transportation-management specialist, also used his work telephone to contact escort services in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Georgia, prosecutors say.

In addition, Mr. Hsiung is accused of impersonating the vice-president of an unnamed company that is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and creating counterfeit checks in the company’s name.

Prosecutors said Mr. Hsiung told escort services that the company was trying to negotiate “a major deal with an Asian businessman and stressed that it was important for the businessman to be shown a good time.”

According to public records, Mr. Hsiung has been a leader at the transportation agency in touting fuel-cell and hydrogen-technology initiatives to industry leaders.

He was the project manager for an agency study last year that focused on moving toward hybrid-electric technology for transit buses. He also was the point of contact in the agency for a $49 million fuel-cell, bus-technology grant program.

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