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Press Release

Former Research Oceanographer Sentenced for Accepting a Salary from the People’s Republic of China

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

A former research oceanographer in the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has been sentenced for accepting a salary from the People’s Republic of China.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George Lee, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), Investigations and Threat Management Division, Duane Townsend, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General (DOC-OIG), and Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement. 

According to court documents, Chunzai Wang, 56, of Miami, was one of the foremost experts on ocean-atmosphere interaction, climate change, and hurricanes in the world.  NOAA is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce.  While a NOAA/AOML employee, Wang knowingly and willfully received a salary for his services as an employee of NOAA/AOML, from the People’s Republic of China, Changjiang Scholars Program, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 209(a) and 216(a)(2).

Specifically, beginning in 2010, and while employed at NOAA, Wang entered into contractual agreements to work on China’s Changjiang Scholars Program, Thousand Talents Program, and was also involved in China’s 973 Program which mobilizes scientific talents to strengthen basic research in line with national strategic targets of the People’s Republic of China. 

Wang was sentenced to a term of time served.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the United States Department of Commerce and the FBI.  The case was being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Walleisa.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

Updated February 22, 2018