On Thursday, a researcher with the University of Kansas was convicted of covering up illegal work he was doing on behalf of China while living in the United States.
According to ABC News, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson is still weighing a motion to have the case against Feng Tao of Lawrence, Kansas dismissed. Robinson asked Tao’s lawyers to submit in writing their arguments for dismissal. Until then, the trial will proceed accordingly.
A jury convicted Tao of three counts of wire fraud and one count of false statements, after he failed to disclose a conflict of interest on his grant applications due to his involvement with a Chinese talent program called the Changjiang Professorship. With this program, Tao frequently traveled to China to set up a laboratory and recruit staff for Fuzhou University; during these trips, Tao lied to his employers at the University of Kansas and said he was traveling to Germany instead.
Prosecutor Adam Barry pointed to these deliberate coverups of his travels as “an elaborate lie” meant to defraud not only the university, but also the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
But Tao’s defense attorney Peter Zeidenberg tried to justify his client’s conduct by pointing out that Tao achieved several honors while working for the University of Kansas, including an award he received in April of 2019, several months before his arrest. Zeidenberg also claimed that Tao’s work for China wasn’t actually illegal since he was never paid for it.
The case against Tao represents one of many successful convictions brought about by the Justice Department’s China Initiative, first established in 2018 under the Trump Administration. Despite its success in rooting out Chinese operatives in the United States, the Biden Administration ended the program in February after far-left activists made unsubstantiated claims of “racism” against the program due to its targeting of Chinese infiltrators.
Following his conviction, Tao faces up to 20 years in federal prison, plus a fine of $250,000 for the wire fraud charges, as well as an additional 10 years and another $250,000 fine for the false statements charge.