MIT Professor Arrested and Charged With Grant Fraud & Hiding Ties To China

MIT professor China

A professor and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was charged last week with grant fraud after allegedly hiding his relationship with China.

Gang Chen, 56, was arrested at his home in Cambridge and search warrants were executed at his house and office.

The FBI in Boston said Chen has failed to disclose his work with China to the U.S. Department of Energy when he applied for millions of dollars in grants.

Justice.gov reports: According to charging documents, Chen is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in China. He is a professor and researcher at MIT where he serves as Director of the MIT Pappalardo Micro/Nano Engineering Laboratory and Director of the Solid-State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center (S3TEC). Since approximately 2013, Chen’s research at MIT has been funded by more than $19 million in grants awarded by various U.S. federal agencies.

Since 2012, Chen has allegedly held various appointments with the PRC designed to promote the PRC’s technological and scientific development by providing advice and expertise – sometimes directly to PRC government officials – and often in exchange for financial compensation. This includes acting as an “overseas expert” for the PRC government at the request of the PRC Consulate Office in New York and serving as a member of at least two PRC Talent Programs. Since 2013, Chen allegedly received approximately $29 million of foreign funding, including $19 million from the PRC’s Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech).

It is further alleged that Chen’s efforts to promote the PRC’s scientific and economic development were partially detailed in a February 2016 email that Chen sent himself using his MIT e-mail account.  The email read:

1. promote chinese collaboration

2. China places innovation (scientific) as key and core not fashion [sic], but because

we must do it, from historic trend as well from our stage

3. our economy is no. 2, but from technology (structure of economy) and human

resources, we are far from no. 2

4. we are paying big price in environment, not sustainable, as well as from labor cost

5. environment protection and development in same place, environment even higher, clean energy if higher cost, reduce steel, cement. We must count on technology, cannot grow as past

6. communist 18th convention, scientific innovation placed at core. We realize not just independent innovation; but also internationalize to plan for and facilitate. Closed door innovation does not work; innovation as driving force

From at least 2017 to 2019 when Chen was serving in several advisory roles for the PRC and PRC entities, Chen applied for and obtained a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant in order to fund a portion of his research at MIT.  In doing so, it is alleged that Chen failed to disclose information about his ongoing affiliations with the PRC as required by DOE.

Chen also allegedly failed to disclose to the IRS in his 2018 tax return that he maintained a bank account in the PRC with more than $10,000 in 2018.

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of making false statements provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of failing to file an FBAR provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.