The American flag and Chinese flag are pictured side by side. (File Photo / AP Photo)
UPDATED 9:35 AM PT – Friday, January 15, 2021
A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been arrested for allegedly failing to disclose his connection to the Chinese Communist Party.
Gang Chen, 56, was arrested by federal agents at his home in Massachusetts on Thursday. He has been charged with wire fraud, making false statements and failure to file a foreign bank account report. Chen was born in China, but is a naturalized citizen who moved to the United States more than 30 years ago.
The engineering professor has worked at MIT since 2013 as a researcher and a professor in power engineering. While working at MIT, Chen reportedly entered into undisclosed contracts and held appointments with Chinese entities as well as individuals connected to the Chinese government.
Chen allegedly did not disclose his connections to China when applying for federal grants as required by federal law.
“It is not illegal to collaborate with foreign researchers, it is illegal to lie about it,” said Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “And, no, we are not seeking out Chinese nationals or those of Chinese origin to prosecute, we look for conduct not for ethnicity.”
While at MIT, the professor and his research group reportedly received millions of dollars from Chinese government funded entities while also collecting $19 million in grants from federal agencies. Investigators believe Chen’s actions were intended to further the scientific and technological goals of the Chinese Communist Party.
Chen’s arrest is the latest in a pattern of academic espionage activities focused on stealing the intellectual property and scientific information from U.S. universities. He could face a total of 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
In the past few years dozens of academics have been accused of failing to disclose connections to the Chinese Communist Party.