WICHITA, Kan. -- An associate professor at the University of Kansas was secretly working full time for a Chinese university while doing research in Kansas on projects funded by the U.S. government, an indictment filed Wednesday alleges.
Feng "Franklin" Tao was charged with one count of wire fraud and three counts of program fraud. The 47-year-old Lawrence man has been employed since August 2014 at the Kansas university's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis in Lawrence. The center conducts research on sustainable technology to conserve natural resources and energy.
Court records do not list an attorney for Tao, who was arrested Wednesday at his home.
The Kansas Board of Regents requires staff to file an annual conflict-of-interest report, and the indictment accuses Tao of falsely claiming in those reports to have no such conflicts. Prosecutors also allege he fraudulently received more than $37,000 in salary funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
"Tao is alleged to have defrauded the U.S. government by unlawfully receiving federal grant money at the same time that he was employed and paid by a Chinese research university — a fact that he hid from his university and federal agencies," John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's National Security Division, said in a news release.
Tao signed a five-year contract in May 2018 that designated him as a Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor and required him to be a full-time employee of Fuzhou University in China, according to the indictment.
His first court hearing is Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.