Researcher At University Of Tennessee Arrested For Wire Fraud And Making False Statements About Affiliation With A Chinese University
Knoxville, Tenn. – U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey and FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Joseph E. Carrico announced today the arrest of a researcher at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), following the return of a federal grand jury’s indictment. Anming Hu, 51, an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at UTK, is charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements.
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) in China. Federal law prohibits NASA from using federally 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 federal law.
“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.”
“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 FBI and its federal government, private-sector, and academic partners will continue to investigate and collaborate to counter these efforts at concealment, wherever they occur,” said FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Joseph E. Carrico.
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 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Offices of the Inspectors General for NASA and the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey Arrowood and Frank Dale of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Trial Attorney Nathan Charles of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
This case is part of the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, which reflects the strategic priority of countering national security threats and reinforces the President’s overall national security strategy. In addition to identifying and prosecuting those engaged in trade secret theft, hacking and economic espionage, the initiative will increase efforts to protect our critical infrastructure against external threats including direct foreign investment, supply chain threats and the foreign agents seeking to influence the American public and policymakers without proper registration.