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24 Aug, 2020 21:06

NASA researcher arrested by FBI for conspiracy & wire fraud over links to China

NASA researcher arrested by FBI for conspiracy & wire fraud over links to China

A Texas A&M University professor and NASA researcher has been charged with conspiracy and accused of collaborating with several Chinese entities, while his grant explicitly prohibited him from doing so.

Zhengdong Cheng, a professor in the College of Engineering at Texas A&M who also worked on projects for NASA, was arrested by the FBI over the weekend, the Department of Justice said Monday.

Cheng has led a team conducting research for NASA, and, according to the criminal complaint, deliberately concealed his ties with a Chinese university and at least one Chinese-owned company for several years. The professor was explicitly prohibited from cooperating with China in any form under the terms of his federal grant participation, the charges indicate.

The scientist now stands accused of conspiracy, wire fraud and giving false statements. Cheng is believed to have personally benefited from these alleged activities, as he was granted advanced access to NASA resources, including even the International Space Station (ISS). Such perks allegedly helped him improve his standing with Guangdong University of Technology, as well as several other Chinese universities.

FBI Counterintelligence Division Assistant Director Alan Kohler Jr. said that the agency is “committed to aggressively pursuing” any individuals who are attempting to “undercut” US technological advancement by “concealing their participation in Chinese talent recruitment programs and to hold them accountable for their actions.”

Despite the involvement of the FBI’s counterintelligence in Cheng’s case, it was not immediately clear whether the scientist actually had any access to sensitive or classified information. Notably, he has not been charged with espionage.

Also on rt.com Former CIA officer arrested & charged with spying for China, told FBI sting op he wanted ‘the motherland’ to succeed

Cheng’s arrest comes days after Hong Kong-born former CIA officer and FBI contractor Alexander Yuk Ching Ma was arrested for espionage in a separate case. The former official allegedly provided information to the Chinese government, according to the charges against him.

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