GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A former University of Florida associate professor and researcher has been indicted on allegations of fraudulently getting a federal grant by concealing ties with the Chinese government.
Lin Yang, 43, a resident of China, is charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to a U.S. agency, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported in a news release Wednesday.
“The taxpayer dollars that funded Yang’s research were intended to benefit the health and well-being of U.S. citizens,” U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe for the Northern District of Florida said in the news release. “But our indictment alleges that Yang engaged in acts of deliberate deception so that he could also further the research goals of the Chinese Communist government and advance his own business interests.”
Other University of Florida faculty members have come under scrutiny for possibly running afoul of disclosure requirements, and this indictment is the latest in the U.S. government’s effort to prosecute trade secret theft.
“The United States can benefit greatly from hosting foreign researchers in our academic institutions, but this case illustrates how that collaborative environment can also be exploited,” said Rachel Rojas, special agent in the FBI’s Jacksonville division.
Yang reportedly created a company in China that was going to profit from his University of Florida research funded with a $1.75 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The grant went toward Yang’s work to develop an imaging and information processing tool for muscles called MuscleMiner, the release said.
Yang was required to disclose his foreign research support and financial conflicts of interest including ownership of a foreign company.
The indictment alleges Yang concealed the information so he could keep his job at the University of Florida and continue to receive NIH grant money.
“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 release said.
It is also alleged that Yang falsely stated to the school’s College of Engineering that he had no affiliation with any business, entity or university in China.
The indictment by a federal grand jury in Gainesville was returned Dec. 15 and unsealed Wednesday.
Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Maximum penalties for making a false statement are five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.