Professor charged with stealing $1.75 million in research for China

Communist China has long benefitted from American-funded research stolen by Chinese academics who infiltrate colleges throughout the United States. This month a criminal indictment sheds light on a recent scheme allegedly masterminded by a Chinese professor at one of the nation’s top-ranked public universities. His name is Lin Yang, a 43-year-old member of the Thousand Talents Program (TTP) operated by the Chinese government to transfer original ideas, technology and intellectual property from foreign institutions, especially American colleges. TTP rewards Chinese scientists for stealing propriety information, usually funded by Uncle Sam.

In this case Yang, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida (UF), fraudulently obtained a $1.75 million federal grant to conduct research that he stole for China, according to a federal indictment. The money came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. government’s handsomely funded medical research agency, which has an immense $41.7 billion annual budget. The research involved developing an imaging informatics tool for muscles known as “MuscleMiner.” Federal prosecutors say that between 2014 and 2019 Yang served as the principal investigator for the NIH grant at UF, a top-ranked public research institution in Gainesville. That means he was responsible for conducting and administering the money in compliance with applicable federal law and institutional policies. “Among other things, Yang was required to disclose his foreign research support and financial conflicts of interest, including his ownership of, or interest in, a foreign company,” according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement.

Instead, Yang established a business in China known as “Deep Informatics” that he promoted by disclosing that its products were the result of years of research supported by millions of dollars of U.S. government funding. To maintain employment at UF and continue receiving NIH grant money, Yang intentionally concealed his conflicts of interest, including his Chinese business, participation in the TTP and affiliation with a Chinese research university. “On multiple occasions, Yang submitted disclosures to NIH containing false statements and material omissions concerning his affiliations and research endeavors with a foreign government and company,” the DOJ reveals. Additionally, in January 2019, UF’s College of Engineering required all faculty to provide, in writing, updated disclosures concerning activities with foreign entities in China and two other countries. Yang provided UF with a written response falsely stating he had no affiliation with any business, entity, or university in China, the indictment states. Yang fled to China in August 2019. He has been charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States.

This is hardly an isolated case. The U.S. government has long permitted Communists working in the U.S. to steal billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded research. Many of them work at public universities throughout the country or at government agencies such as the NIH, National Science Foundation (NSF) or national laboratories affiliated with the Department of Energy (DOE). For decades many of the institutions have been deeply impacted by Chinese infiltrators stealing highly valuable intellectual property. A U.S. Senate investigation determined that, not only has American-funded research long been stolen by China, the work is helping the Communist nation meet its goal of becoming a world leader in science and technology. China uses hundreds of government-funded talent recruitment plans, such as TTP, to incentivize individuals engaged in research and development in the U.S, transmit information in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space and other perks. The Communists then use the American research for their own economic and military gain.

The Trump administration addressed the problem by having the NIH fire dozens of scientists last summer over their secret financial ties to Communist China. It is not clear how long they went undetected or how much taxpayer-funded research they stole, but at the time some 54 scientists got booted for failing to disclose a troubling financial arrangement with a foreign government. In the overwhelming majority of cases—93%—the cash came from China, according to an NIH investigation that started more than two years ago. Also, in most of the probes the targets were Asian men in their 50s. The bulk of the ousted researchers received generous grants from the NIH, which annually invests tens of billions of dollars in medical research by giving around 50,000 grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools and other institutions throughout the country. Only 10% of the agency’s budget supports projects conducted by scientists in its own lab in Bethesda Maryland.

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