A federal grand jury found a professor at a public university guilty on espionage charges Wednesday, according to court records.
The jury found Mingqing Xiao, a math professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), guilty on four counts related to filing false tax statements, according to records from The Southern District of Illinois United States District Court.
Xiao was indicted for having “fraudulently obtained $151,099 in federal grant money from the National Science Foundation (NSF) by concealing support he was receiving from the Chinese government and a Chinese university,” according to an April 2021 Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.
Xiao allegedly failed to report that he was on the payroll of Shenzhen University and had received a grant from the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong at the time he applied for and received grants from the NSF, according to the DOJ.
Xiao now faces up to 5 years in prison as well as fines, but his attorney told the DCNF they intend to appeal the verdict.
“We continue to believe that Professor Xiao did not willfully fail to disclose the existence of a foreign bank account, and we intend to challenge the jury’s findings on those counts,” Patrick Linehan, one of Xiao’s attorneys, said in a statement to the DCNF. “Ming is a beloved professor, colleague and friend who fell victim to the China Initiative’s improper investigations and prosecutions and we hope that he can rebuild his life and his career.”
The guilty verdict is the latest victory for the DOJ’s now-terminated China Initiative, a Trump administration anti-espionage program which sought to “identify priority trade secret theft cases” and “develop an enforcement strategy concerning non-traditional collectors,” such as researchers and universities.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen replaced the China Initiative with the Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats in February 2022, citing the concerns of “the civil rights community” who Olsen says claimed the program “fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias.”