A professor and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is facing federal charges for allegedly failing to disclose his ties to the Chinese government to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Gang Chen, 56, of Cambridge, was arrested Thursday morning on charges that he abused his position as a professor at MIT to commit wire fraud, failed to file a foreign bank account report and made a false statement in a tax return, the U.S. District Attorney's Office announced.
He is scheduled to make his first court appearance later in the day.
Chen, who was born in China but is a naturalized U.S. citizen, serves as director of the MIT Pappalardo Micro/Nano Engineering Laboratory and director of the school's Solid-State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center. Since 2013, prosecutors said his research at MIT has been funded by more than $19 million in grants from various U.S. federal agencies.
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"He was working for the Chinese government while securing U.S. research dollars," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a press conference Thursday to announce the arrest.
Prosecutors allege that Chen has held various appointments within the People's Republic of China since 2012 designed to promote the country's technological and scientific development by providing advice and expertise, often in exchange for financial compensation.
Since 2013, prosecutors said Chen received approximately $29 million in foreign funding, including $19 million from China's Southern University of Science and Technology.
While serving in several advisory roles for China, Chen also allegedly applied for and obtained a U.S. Department of Energy grant to fund a portion of his research at MIT. In doing so, prosecutors said he failed to disclose information about his ongoing affiliations with China as required by law.
"The problem is not the collaboration itself," Lelling said. "The problem is lying about it."
Chen also allegedly failed to disclose to the IRS in his 2018 tax return that he maintained a bank account in China with more than $10,000 in 2018.
Lelling said MIT cooperated with prosecutors' requests for information over time, before adding, "I think I would leave it at that."
The wire fraud charge carries 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 a foreign bank account report carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.