Harvard chemistry professor sentenced for lying about ties to CCP
Former Harvard University Chemistry Department Chair Charles M. Lieber was sentenced Wednesday to time served and over $80,000 in fines for committing fraud and for failing to disclose his connections to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Lieber received $50,000 monthly income, $158,000 in living expenses, and a $1.5 million award from the CCP to establish a research laboratory at the Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in China
Former Harvard University Chemistry Department Chair Charles M. Lieber was sentenced on Wednesday to time served and two years of supervised release for tax fraud and failure to disclose his affiliations with the biochemical research efforts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The first six months of Lieber’s sentence will be under house arrest. Lieber was also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine as well as $33,600 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Lieber was arrested and charged with fraud in January 2020 after being accused of lying to both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DOD) about his connections to the Chinese government.
For his work at Harvard, Lieber received over $15 million in research grants from both the NIH and DOD, which would have required Lieber to disclose his foreign ties. Without even Harvard’s knowledge, however, Lieber participated in the Thousand Talents Program (TTP), a CCP initiative to recruit global scientists, from 2012 to 2017.
At the time of the indictment, the Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that Lieber received $50,000 monthly income, $158,000 in living expenses, and a $1.5 million award from the CCP to establish a research laboratory at the Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in China, as Campus Reform previously reported.
Federal prosecuting attorneys recommended that Lieber be sentenced to 90 days in prison and a year of supervised release in addition to more than $180,000 in fines, according to the Harvard Crimson.
Prosecutors argued that the long-term nature of Lieber’s deception warranted stringent punishment, noting that he “purposely — and repeatedly — lied to government agents about his ties to WUT and TTP in response to direct, unambiguous questions; and he purposely concealed from tax authorities the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to him by WUT.”
“They were not the product of a single misguided act or one rash decision,” according to the prosecutors, “but rather a concerted and sustained effort over a period of years to downplay his relationship with WUT, cover up completely his affiliation with the [TTP], and secretly line his own pockets.”
Lieber’s defense attorney petitioned the court to pursue a lesser sentence due to his client’s weakened immune system as a result of his ten-year battle with lymphoma, as reported by Chemical and Engineering News.
Prior to sentencing, Lieber gave emotional testimony expressing his remorse, according to the Crimson.
“The last three-plus years,” Lieber said, “have been a truly horrific experience for me and my wife and my children, and I regret the things that brought me here….As you have heard, I have lost my job, my career, and my freedom — and I sincerely hope I will not lose what is left of my life given my poor health.”
Lieber’s sentencing comes as congressional Republicans have increasingly pressured the Biden administration to resume Trump-era investigations into foreign influence in higher education.
Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Dr. Virginia Foxx, previously told Campus Reform, “The CCP has pumped billions of dollars into America’s colleges and universities—with little to no oversight…yet the Biden administration continues to sit on its hands while the CCP’s influence permeates deeper into American postsecondary education and society.”
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