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Press Release

Former West Virginia University professor pleads guilty to wire fraud and tax fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of West Virginia

CLARKSBURG – Dr. Qingyun Sun, of Morgantown, West Virginia, has admitted to defrauding West Virginia University and filing a false tax return, both offenses arising out of his official travel to China, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

Sun, age 58, pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with wire fraud and filing a false tax return. Sun was a Chinese National employed by WVU as an associate professor and the associate director of the United States-China Energy Center at the University. As a part of his employment at WVU, through the West Virginia Development Office, he also acted as the Governor’s assistant for China affairs. He was also employed by Synfuels Americas Corporation, an energy conversion technology provider of coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids processes located in Sterling, Virginia, but headquartered in Beijing, China. From July 2011 to May 2015, Peabody Energy Generation Holding Company based in St. Louis, Missouri, paid consulting fees to Energy United LC, a consulting business Sun established in 2005. The scheme involved Sun’s operation of his consulting business through Energy United. 

In 2015, Sun traveled to China on behalf of WVU and the WV Development Office to prepare for an upcoming visit to China by WVU representatives and to lead a West Virginia industrial delegation for a coal expo in Beijing. Sun booked both a coach flight and a business class flight for this trip, submitting a request for reimbursement to WVU for the coach flight, and submitting a request for reimbursement to Synfuels Americas for the business flight. Sun only used the business class ticket for his trip.

In 2014, Sun filed a joint income tax return with his wife, grossly overstating his business-related travel expenses, when a large sum of those travel expenses were paid for by a State Purchasing Card, or reimbursed to him by WVU and Peabody Energy. He also failed to state any financial interest in, or authority over, a financial account in a foreign country. Sun had an interest in numerous financial accounts in China.

As a part of the plea agreement, Sun has agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $6,233.12 in full to WVU.  Sun is no longer employed by WVU. 

Sun faces up to 20 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for wire fraud and faces up to three years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for tax fraud. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarod J. Douglas is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The FBI and the Internal Revenue Service investigated. WVU cooperated in the investigation of this case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi presided.

Updated July 23, 2020

Financial Fraud