The Department of Justice confirmed on Monday that a Texas A&M professor, who is also a NASA researcher, has been arrested under charges of conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud, after he allegedly hid affiliations with a Chinese government program.
NASA Researcher Worked for China?
Zhengdong Cheng, aged 53, was arrested on Sunday. Prosecutors revealed that Cheng allegedly obscured his affiliations and collaboration with a Chinese university and at least one Chinese company.
The prosecution alleged that Cheng has concealed his ties to various talent programs organized by Chinese Universities. The Trump administration has recently ordered authorities to crack down on professors who exploit their China ties, and those who steal intellectual property for Beijing's economic benefit.
Cheng Worked for Both China and US
Prosecutors revealed that Cheng was hired by Texas A&M in 2004. At that time, he led a team of researchers that received nearly $750,000 in NASA grants for space research and other studies. However, during the same time, he worked as the director of an institute in Guangdong, China, funded by the Chinese education ministry.
Apart from working for both the countries, Cheng also took part in talent recruitment programs carried out by the Chinese government and companies. While working with NASA and Texas A&M, Cheng hid his affiliation to Chinese entities and claimed federal grant money.
Ryan Patrick, the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Texas, revealed that the talent recruitment programs are literally exploiting open and free universities in the United States. He also alleged that China is "building economic and academic institutions with bricks stolen from others all around the world."
John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General, said that the country will try to shed light on illicit deals that are being carried out in the disguise of these talent programs.