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University of Tennessee researcher arrested for hiding ties with a Chinese university

Ayres Hall, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. (Nightryder84/Wikimedia Commons)
February 28, 2020

Anming Hu, an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) was arrested today on a federal indictment and charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements.

“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 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) by concealing his affiliation with Beijing University of Technology (BJUT), a university in China. 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.

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 maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the assigned judge. In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty; indictments merely contain allegations supported by probable cause.

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.

This press release was originally published by the U.S. Department of Justice.