A University of Tennessee-Knoxville associate professor was indicted on federal charges Thursday alleging he concealed his work for a Chinese University while collecting roughly $60,000 in U.S. taxpayer research funds.
Anming Hu, who teaches engineering classes at the school, is charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of false statements. If convicted on all six charges, Mr. Hu could face up to 120 years in prison.
Mr. Hu is the latest university professor to be accused of double-dealing.
Federal prosecutors last month charged Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard University’s chemistry department with lying to the U.S. Department of Defense about his ties to China to collect research dollars. In 2019, Feng “Franklin” Tao, a chemistry professor at the University of Kansas was accused of hiding his research for a Chinese university so he wouldn’t be shut out of U.S. government research grants.
“This is just the latest case involving professors or researchers concealing their affiliations with China from their American employees and the U.S. government. We will not tolerate it,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
While working as a professor at UTK since 2013, Mr. Hu was also a faculty member at the Beijing University of Technology’s Institute of Laser Engineering, according to court documents.
Prosecutors say he concealed his work for the Beijing University so he could collect research grants from NASA. Under a 2011 federal law, NASA is prohibited from entering into an agreement with China or Chinese-affiliated entities.
“Hu knowingly and willfully caused UTK to falsely certify to NASA and to NASA contractors that UTK was in compliance with NASA’s China Funding Restriction regarding NASA-funded projects,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
Had Hu fully disclosed his ties to China, NASA would not have awarded government-funded projects to him, prosecutors continued.
“The United States Attorney’s Office takes seriously fraudulent conduct that is devised to undermine federally-mandated funding restrictions related to China and Chinese universities,” said U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Benjamin G. Sharp of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Knoxville is representing Mr. Hu. He declined to comment to The Washington Times citing local rules barring him from discussing the case.