A University of Tennessee – Knoxville associate engineering professor has been arrested and indicted on three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements for allegedly hiding his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving funding from NASA, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Anming Hu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK).
“Hu allegedly committed fraud by hiding his relationship with a Chinese university while receiving funding from NASA,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “This is just the latest case involving professors or researchers concealing their affiliations with China from their American employers and the U.S. government. We will not tolerate it.”
“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. “The University of Tennessee has cooperated with the investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office values the university’s assistance in this matter.”
The indictment alleges that beginning in 2016, Hu engaged in a scheme to defraud NASA by concealing his affiliation with Beijing University of Technology (BJUT), a university in China, the DOJ said. Federal law prohibits NASA from using appropriated funds on projects in collaboration with China or Chinese universities. As alleged in the indictment, Hu’s false representations and omissions to UTK about his affiliation with BJUT caused UTK to falsely certify to NASA that UTK was in compliance with this federal law.
According to the indictment, Hu was a faculty member for BJUT’s Institute of Laser Engineering in Beijing. BJUT was established by the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Education in 1960.
Hu has not been charged with espionage; however, his research topic would be interesting to China, American Greatness reported.
“This technology has very specific applications in etching semiconductors that are critical to the Chinese government,” former US intelligence officer Nicholas Eftimiades, an expert on Chinese espionage operations, told Quartz. “It is an area in which they lag behind us and have been trying to become self-reliant. Well, self-reliant in production, not in developing the technology themselves. That, they steal.”
Hu collected about $60,000 in U.S. taxpayer research funds, The Washington Times said.
This is the latest in a string of cases in which American university faculty have been accused of having improper ties to China.
If convicted, Hu faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each of the wire fraud counts, and up to five years in prison on each of the false statement counts, the DOJ said.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, the Offices of the Inspectors General for NASA and the Department of Energy. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey Arrowood and Frank Dale of the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Trial Attorney Nathan Charles of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.
Photo “Anming Hu” by Knox County Sheriff, and University of Tennessee Knoxville” is by Nightryder84 CC3.0.