New indictment on KU researcher who allegedly concealed being recruited for Chinese ‘talent’ program


KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – Feng “Franklin” Tao47, of Lawrence, Kan., was charged Wednesday in a superseding indictment with two counts of wire fraud and one count of program fraud.

The indictment alleges Tao concealed from University of Kansas officials work he was doing for China while employed full time as an associate professor at KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis.

Some of Tao’s research at KU was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The superseding indictment elaborates on an indictment a grand jury returned in August 2019. It describes how China offered competitive salaries, state-of-the-art research facilities, and honorific titles to researchers who joined talent programs and urged them to recruit others.

If convicted, the defendant could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each of the wire fraud counts and up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000 on the program fraud count.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the assigned judge.

The University of Kansas cooperated and assisted in the FBI’s investigation of the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi and Nathan Charles, trial attorney for the Counterespionage and Export Control Section (CTS) of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, are prosecuting.


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