MIT Professor Arrested and Charged with Grant Fraud Relating to China, Thursday, January 14, 2021

Defendant allegedly failed to disclose his work for the People’s Republic of China to U.S. Department of Energy

BOSTON – A professor and researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was charged and arrested today in connection with failing to disclose contracts, appointments and awards from various entities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the U.S. Department of Energy.

MIT professor accused of fraudulently obtaining federal grants; failed to  disclose contracts in China - The Boston Globe

Gang Chen, 56, was charged by criminal complaint with wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return. Chen will make an initial appearance today before Magistrate Judge Donald L. Cabell.

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.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Patrick J. Hegarty, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office; William S. Walker, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigation, Boston; Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; and Jim Breckenridge, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys B. Stephanie Siegmann, Chief of Lelling’s National Security Unit, and Jason Casey and Timothy Kistner also of Lelling’s National Security Unit are prosecuting the case with assistance from Trial Attorney David Aaron of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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