A Chinese-American mathematics professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC) was indicted Wednesday (April 21) by a federal grand jury on three counts of concealing the receipt of Chinese Communist Party funds when he applied for U.S. federal funding.
According to court documents, Mingqing Xiao, 59, of Makanda, Illinois, concealed support he received from the Chinese Communist government and a Chinese university while fraudulently receiving $151,099 in federal funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Xiao Mingqing, a mathematics professor and researcher at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is charged with two counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements.
According to the indictment, Xiao has been with SIUC’s mathematics department since 2000, focusing on partial differential equations, control theory, optimization theory, dynamical systems and computational science. Xiao is accused of applying for and receiving NSF grant funding for a project scheduled to run from 2019 to 2022, but failing to notify NSF that he had received another overlapping grant from the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, China.
Xiao also allegedly failed to notify NSF that he was receiving a salary from Shenzhen University, a public university in Guangdong Province, and that he had committed to teach and conduct research at Shenzhen University from 2018 to 2023.
The indictment also alleges that in March 2019, while Shaw’s NSF grant application was still pending, Shaw submitted another grant application to the Chinese Natural Science Foundation. According to the indictment, Xiao allegedly applied for this funding as an employee of SIUC, but did not disclose this fact to NSF. Xiao is accused of falsely representing to the SIUC that his NSF application for the grant program was true, complete and accurate.
Before awarding the funds, NSF asked Xiao if he had any current or pending relationships with any current or pending funds from “global sources,” specifically whether he had held any positions outside the United States or had received funds from non-U.S. funding sources.
The indictment alleges that Xiao Mingqing falsely reported to NSF that he had no other disclosable funds or positions.
If convicted, Xiao Mingqing faces up to 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud, and up to five years in prison for making false statements. All three charges will also be subject to fines of up to $250,000. A federal district court judge will determine the sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said, “Once again, U.S. professors are being charged for lying about their obligations and support to Chinese government departments and Chinese public universities, and for enabling the Chinese government to benefit from U.S. research funding.”
“Honesty and transparency in funding sources are central to the research enterprise, allowing U.S. institutions to allocate scarce research funds fairly and equitably, and also allowing other researchers to assess potential conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment. The U.S. Department of Justice stands ready to investigate and prosecute when researchers fail to achieve these core academic values by acting in violation of the law and thus failing to do so.” DeMers said.
Sean M. Cox, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Springfield Field Office, said, “The FBI takes seriously its commitment to protecting U.S. research funding by partnering with the academic community. This investigation, like many others, is a reminder that failure to be truthful and transparent about U.S. funding requests is a violation of the law. In this case, the applicant allegedly failed to disclose affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party. And individuals who fail to disclose affiliation with any foreign country will be held accountable.”
Steven D. Weinhoeft, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said, “The allegations in this case are very serious.”
He said university aid funding fraud allowed the Chinese Communist Party to exploit U.S. research and development at little cost. “These types of prosecutions not only protect U.S. investments in academic research from foreign exploitation, but also play an important role in the battle against the growing threat to national security posed by China (the Chinese Communist Party).” He said.
The prosecution is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing “China Initiative. The China Initiative, led by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division, is a broad, multifaceted effort to address the national security threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party and to safeguard U.S. intellectual property rights.