Harvard University professor convicted of misrepresentation and tax offenses | USAO-MA
BOSTON – The former chairman of the chemistry and chemical biology department at Harvard University was convicted today by a federal jury for lying to federal authorities about his affiliation with the People’s Republic’s Thousand Talent Program of China and Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in Wuhan, China, as well as not to report the income he received from WUT.
Dr Charles Lieber, 62, was convicted after a six-day jury trial on two counts of making false statements to federal authorities, two counts of making and underwriting one false income statement; and two counts of failure to file Foreign Bank Reports and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). US District Court Senior Judge Rya W. Zobel will sentence Lieber at a later date which has yet to be set. Lieber was indicted in June 2020 and was subsequently indicted in a substitute indictment in July 2020.
“There is now no doubt that Charles Lieber lied to federal investigators and Harvard in an attempt to hide his participation in the Chinese Thousand Talent Program,” Interim US Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell said. “He lied to the IRS about the money that was paid to him and he hid his Chinese bank account in the United States. The jury followed the evidence and the law to a fair verdict. “
“Today’s verdict reinforces our commitment to protect our country’s position as a world leader in research and innovation and to hold accountable those who exploit and undermine this position through dishonesty. By Charles Lieber’s own admission – after we arrested him – the evidence against him was formidable. He repeatedly lied to his employer, the federal government and taxpayers to fraudulently maintain access to federal research funds, ”Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Mr. Lieber has exploited the openness and transparency of our academic system. The FBI will not hesitate to work with our law enforcement partners to focus on those who put their financial and professional interests above the law. economic prosperity of our country.
“The Defense Criminal Investigation Service (DCIS) of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense (DoD) investigates foreign conflicts of interest in DoD grant programs,” said Patrick J. Hegarty Patrick J. Hegarty, Special Agent in charge of the Defense Criminal Investigation Department, Northeast Field Office. “Mr. Lieber lied to DCIS special agents about his ties to the Chinese government while conducting research for the DoD, and he eroded the DoD’s trust in its researchers to prioritize the United States and its military versus foreign governments and personal financial gain. “
“NCIS continues to aggressively protect the technologies and strategic advantages of the Department of the Navy through years of investment in cutting-edge technological research and development,” said Michael Wiest, Special Agent in Charge of Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Northeast Field Office. “By failing to disclose his connections and foreign support, Mr. Lieber has broken a trust and undermined the integrity of federally funded research. The guilty verdicts in this case are the result of exceptional teamwork with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our federal partners at the FBI, DCIS, IRS, and NIH.
“We expect professors like Dr Lieber who are privileged to be part of taxpayer-funded research to be honest in their actions,” said Philip M. Coyne, special agent in charge of the US Department of Health. and Social Services, Inspector’s Office. General. “Today’s conviction demonstrates the OIG’s commitment to ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not wasted and that those who administer those funds are honest in their dealings with federal agencies.”
“Today’s guilty verdict is a shining example of the IRS-CI’s commitment to investigating international tax crimes,” said Joleen D. Simpson, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service -Division of Criminal Investigations for the local Boston office. “Despite Mr. Lieber’s lengthy efforts to conceal his assets and under-report his income, the verdict is proof that Mr. Lieber’s actions were intentional, willful and criminal. The IRS-CI will continue to work with the United States Attorney’s Office and our federal law enforcement partners to investigate complex financial frauds that extend beyond United States borders.
Lieber was a principal investigator in the Lieber Research Group at Harvard University, which received more than $ 15 million in federal research grants between 2008 and 2019. Unbeknownst to his employer, Harvard University, Lieber is became a “strategic scientist” at WUT and later a contractual participant in the China Thousand Talent Plan from at least 2012 to 2015. The China Thousand Talent Plan is one of the talent recruitment plans major Chinese designed to attract, recruit and cultivate high-level scientific talent to promote China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security.
Under Lieber’s Thousand Talent Three-Year Contract, WUT paid Lieber a salary of up to $ 50,000 per month, living expenses of up to $ 150,000, and awarded him over $ 1.5 million for establish a research laboratory at WUT. In 2018 and 2019, Lieber lied to federal authorities about his involvement in the Mille Talents Plan and his affiliation with WUT.
In the 2013 and 2014 tax years, Lieber earned income from WUT in the form of salary and other payments made to him under contracts of Strategic Scientists and Thousand Talent, which he did not disclose. to the IRS on its federal income tax returns. Lieber, together with officials from WUT, opened a bank account in a Chinese bank while traveling to Wuhan in 2012. Subsequently, between 2013 and 2015, WUT periodically deposited part of Lieber’s salary on this account. US taxpayers are required to report the existence of any foreign bank account that holds more than $ 10,000 at any time during a given year by filing an FBAR with the IRS. Lieber did not file an FBAR for the years 2014 and 2015.
The misrepresentation charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years on probation and a fine of $ 250,000. The charge of fabricating and underwriting false income statements carries a sentence of up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $ 100,000. The failure to file an FBAR charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $ 250,000. Sentences are imposed by a judge in a federal district court based on US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting US Attorney Mendell; Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security; FBI SAC Bonavolonta; DCIS SAC Hegarty; NCIS SAC Wiest; HHS OIG SAC Coyne; and IRS CI SAC Simpson made the announcement. Assistant US Attorney Jason Casey of Mendell’s National Security Unit and Assistant US Attorney James R. Drabick of Mendell’s Financial, Financial and Cyber Fraud Unit are continuing the case.