On December 15, 2020, 43 year-old, Lin Yang was officially indicted. He was charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States. The Tampa, Florida resident, who is originally from China, is a former University of Florida (UF) professor and researcher. Yang is accused of fraudulently obtaining $1.75 million in federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
As reported by the United States Department of Justice, the December indictment was officially unsealed yesterday. Yang is alleged to have concealed support he received from the Chinese government and a company that he founded in China to profit from his research. By doing so, he was able to falsely secure the NIH grant money.
Yang obtained the grant money to develop “MuscleMiner”.
According to the DoJ report, the indictment shows that Yang obtained a $1.75 million grant from NIH in order to develop and disseminate an imaging informatics tool for muscles. The tool was known as “MuscleMiner.”
Interestingly, Yang was the principal investigator for the NIH grant at UF between September 2014 and July 2019. In this role, Yang was responsible for conducting and administering the grant in compliance with applicable federal law and institutional policies. As part of his duties, the former professor was required to disclose his foreign research support and financial conflicts of interest. This included his ownership of, or interest in, a foreign company.
In 2016, Yang established a business in China called “Deep Informatics”.
The indictment points out that Yang actually promoted his business in China. He highlighted the fact that the company’s products were the result of years of research he conducted and that it was supported by millions of dollars in U.S. government funding.
“Simultaneously, Yang applied for and was accepted into the People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Program (TTP) in connection with Northwestern Polytechnic University, located in Xi’an, China,” explains the DoJ, “The TTP was a talent plan established by the Chinese government to encourage the transfer of original ideas, technology, and intellectual property from foreign institutions, such as American universities.”
Yang made sure to conceal his conflicts of interest.
To both maintain his employment with UF and continue receiving NIH grant money, Yang purposely hid his conflicts of interest. He also kept hidden the financial support he received from his business in China. As well, Yang participated in a Chinese government talent plan and had an affiliation with a Chinese research university. Of course, he kept all that concealed too. In fact, Yang provided both UF and NIH with written statements falsely declaring he had no affiliation with any business, entity or university in China.
Yang has been in China since August of 2019. He hasn’t been back to the United States since. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of his six counts of wire fraud. As well, each count of making false statements to an agency of the United States is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
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