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Chinese military officer and researcher arrested at LAX is charged with visa fraud

A jetliner nearly collided with an unmanned drone while approaching LAX, shown in 2013. (Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Documents filed Thursday by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California say a scientific researcher and officer in the People’s Republic of China Liberation Army was arrested Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport as he tried to return to China. He is being charged with visa fraud.

Attorney David L. Anderson and FBI Special Agent John F. Bennett said in a criminal complaint unsealed this week that Xin Wang allegedly made fraudulent statements on a J1 non-immigrant visa application issued to him on Dec. 17, 2018.

If convicted, Wang faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The U.S. State Department issues J1 non-immigrant visas for work-and-study-based exchange visitor programs.

According to court documents, Wang indicated his purpose in visiting the United States on March 26, 2019, was to “conduct research at the University of California, San Francisco.”

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He noted in the application he had served 14 years as an associate professor in medicine in the Chinese army, known as the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA. His tenure was supposed to have ended Sept. 1, 2016.

Wang had intended to board a flight Sunday from LAX to Tianjin, China, when he was stopped and questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel at the airport.

It was during this interview, according to court documents, that Wang stated he was a “Level 9” technician with the PLA and received a stipend while he was also provided a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council.

The district court statement equated the Level 9 status to the U.S. rank of major.

Court documents also say that “Wang stated he intentionally made false statements about his military service in his visa application in order to increase the likelihood that he would receive his J1 visa.”

The district court statement added that Wang told customs agents he was ordered by Chinese military personnel to “observe the layout of the UCSF lab and bring back information on how to replicate it in China.”

Customs agents confiscated studies from Wang from UC San Francisco.

Wang initially appeared in court in Los Angeles on Monday and is set to return Friday for a detention hearing.

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© 2020 the Los Angeles Times