(BOSTON) — Former Harvard Professor Charles Lieber — who was found guilty of concealing his affiliation with a Chinese recruitment program — was sentenced to time served in prison (two days) and two years of supervised release with six months of home arrest, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
He will also have to pay a fine of $50,000 and restitution to the Internal Revenue Service of $33,600.
In December 2021, Lieber was found guilty of concealing his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology and his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program, a program designed by the Chinese government to recruit high-level scientists, and failing to report payments on his taxes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
A jury convicted the former chair of Harvard University’s chemistry and chemical biology department of two counts of making false statements to federal authorities, two counts of making and subscribing a false income tax return and two counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts with the IRS, according to the Department of Justice.
While his relationship with Wuhan University of Technology and the Thousand Talents Program were not illegal, he was found to have repeatedly lied to the U.S. government about it.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Lieber to 90 days in prison, one year of supervised release (including 90 days of home confinement), a $150,000 fine and restitution of $33,600 to the IRS. Prosecutors said the recommendation took into consideration Lieber’s diagnosis of with follicular lymphoma — an incurable, slow-growing form of cancer — in approximately 2014. His immune system is considered compromised, according to court documents.
“Mr. Lieber lied to DCIS Special Agents about his ties to the Chinese government while conducting research for the DoD, and he eroded the trust the DoD has in its researchers to prioritize the United States and its service members over foreign governments, and over personal financial gain,” Patrick J. Hegarty, the special agent in charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office, said in a statement in December 2021.
Lieber was the principal investigator of Harvard University’s Lieber Research Group, receiving more than $15 million in federal research grants from 2008 to 2019, according to the Department of Justice.
He became a strategic scientist at the Wuhan University of Technology and later a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan from at least 2012 to 2015. The talents plan is designed to attract, recruit and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security, according to the Department of Justice.
As part of a three-year contract, the Wuhan University of Technology paid Lieber a salary of up to $50,000 per month, living expenses of up to $150,000 and awarded him more than $1.5 million to establish a research lab at the Wuhan University of Technology, according to the DOJ.
In 2018 and 2019, Lieber lied to federal authorities about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan and his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology, according to the Department of Justice.
In tax years 2013 and 2014, Lieber earned income from the Wuhan University of Technology as part of the recruitment contracts, which he did not disclose on his federal income tax returns. After opening an account at a Chinese bank during a visit to Wuhan in 2012 with Wuhan University of Technology officials, Lieber received periodic transfers from 2013 to 2015 with portions of his salary into that account, according to the Department of Justice.
U.S. 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 failed to file FBARs for the years 2014 and 2015, according to the Department of Justice.
Lieber was indicted in June 2020 and was subsequently charged in a superseding indictment in July 2020.
For making false statements, Lieber could have faced up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000; for making and subscribing false income tax returns he could have faced a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine; and for failing to file an FBAR he could have faced up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, according to the Department of Justice.
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