Busted: Math professor convicted by federal jury for hiding China ties to score taxpayer funding


CARBONDALE, IL – A federal jury found an applied math professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, guilty on charges of filing false tax statements stemming from an espionage investigation by the Department of Justice.

Mingqing Xiao was indicted April 21, 2021, for having “fraudulently obtained $151,099 in federal grant money from the National Science Foundation by concealing support he was receiving from the Chinese government and a Chinese university,” according to the Department of Justice.

Xiao, 60, 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 National Science Foundation.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI, the IRS, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Xiao, a U.S. citizen, faces up to 5 years in prison as well as substantial fines. His attorney told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the professor intends to appeal the verdict.

Patrick Linehan, one of Xiao’s attorneys, said in a statement to the DCNF:

“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.

“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 DOJ’s now-terminated China Initiative was a Trump administration anti-espionage program that sought to “identify priority trade-secret theft cases” and “develop an enforcement strategy concerning nontraditional collectors,” such as researchers and universities.

According to the Justice Department website, the China Initiative arose from concerns about spy operations supported by the Chinese government. It said:

“About 80 percent of all economic espionage prosecutions brought by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) allege conduct that would benefit the Chinese state, and there is at least some nexus to China in around 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases.”

It states further that:

“In addition to identifying and prosecuting those engaged in trade secret theft, hacking, and economic espionage, the Initiative focuses on protecting our critical infrastructure against external threats through foreign direct investment and supply chain compromises, as well as combatting covert efforts to influence the American public and policymakers without proper transparency.

“The China Initiative is led by the Department’s National Security Division (NSD), which is responsible for countering nation-state threats to the United States.”

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen on Feb. 23 announced the replacement of the China Initiative with the Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats.

During a press conference at George Mason University, Olsen said Asian-American civil rights representatives claimed that the China Initiative “fueled a narrative of intolerance and bias” and that the program had “disproportionately” targeted ethnic Chinese.

Olsen declined to identify which Asian-American civil rights groups had communicated their displeasure with the program.

There appears to be no change in tactics but the name change is framed as being more sensitive to Americans of Asian descent. Olsen emphasized that the program, under its new name, would still target China-supported espionage initiatives but clarified for their benefit that private citizens are not targeted because they are Chinese. He said the program is:

“. . .focused on the actions of the PRC government, the Chinese Communist Party, and their agents — not the Chinese people or those of Chinese descent.”

Xiao’s case was the fourth to go to a jury resulting from the China Initiative. These cases asserted that China has been using academic scientists as unknowing conduits for federally funded technology.

In the others, a federal judge acquitted University of Tennessee mechanical engineer Anming Hu of lying to NASA and trying to hide his ties to a Chinese university after the jury deadlocked, Harvard University biochemist Charles Lieber was convicted of failing to disclose his research ties to China, and University of Kansas chemist Franklin Tao was also convicted of hiding Chinese research ties.

Xiao was indicted in April 2021 and charged with three counts of fraud. Prosecutors charged he lied to the National Science Foundation and the university about ties to Shenzhen University and Chinese research funding agencies in connection with a 2019 NSF grant. Last fall, the government added four counts of violating tax laws by failing to report the existence of a Chinese bank account to U.S. authorities.

On Monday, Judge Staci Yandle of the Southern District of Illinois United States District Court threw out two of the fraud charges and on Wednesday, the jury acquitted Xiao on the third fraud count, according to court records.

Xiao was convicted on the four tax charges for failing to disclose the bank account in China on his federal income tax returns and for not filing the necessary documents with the Department of the Treasury.

At the time of the indictment, the Justice Department issued a statement about the charges. Alan E. Kohler Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, said:

“Fraudulently obtaining U.S. taxpayer funding is a slap in the face to the vast majority of university researchers who do the right thing and abide by the rules.

“To those individuals who choose to conceal affiliations with foreign universities or foreign governments while applying for U.S. taxpayer-funded grants, the message should be clear: the FBI and its partners are aggressively investigating allegations of grant fraud.

“Before awarding the grant, NSF questioned Xiao about any current or pending funding from ‘worldwide sources,’ including specifically whether he held any position outside of the United States or had obtained funding from non-U.S. funding sources. The indictment accuses Xiao of falsely reporting to NSF that he had nothing else to disclose.”

Xiao remains on paid administrative leave from the university, which launched an investigation after his indictment.


In 2018, Trump implemented a program to combat Chinese spying. Biden’s DOJ just cancelled it

February 27, 2022

The following contains editorial content which is the opinion of the writer. 

WASHINGTON, DC – You honestly cannot make this stuff up. Law Enforcement Today has reported a number of times on Chinese nationals conducting spying operations against the United States, typically as part of colleges and universities.

Now, in what can only be described as a bizarre and tone deaf move, the Biden Justice Department has halted the Trump-era “China Initiative.” Seriously, if Donald Trump had found the cure for cancer, Biden would find a way to reverse it, such is his blind spot where it comes to the 45th president.

Fox News reported that the DOJ announced on Wednesday they are putting a halt to the “China Initiative” which was designed to prevent spying by the Chinese Communist Party and instead said they were launching what they called a new “broader approach.”

Trump launched the program in 2018 in order to protect U.S. security interests against Chinese spying, which was taking place primarily on U.S. intellectual property and in academia.

According to the DOJ website, the program was designed for “identifying and prosecuting those engaged in trade secret theft, hacking, and economic espionage,” as well as “protecting our critical infrastructure against external threats through foreign direct investment and supply chain compromises.”

News of the DOJ’s short-sighted move was met with disgust from some experts on China, who claimed the move meant it was now “open season on Americans.”

Columnist and author Gordon Chang spoke to Fox News Digital in response to the announcement. He said:

“China is stealing hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. intellectual property each year.

“John Ratcliffe, when he was director of national intelligence, estimated it was about $500 billion annually. So China should be the focus of U.S. efforts and now to drop the China Initiative sends a message to Beijing and everyone else that it’s open season on Americans.

“It seems it’s become politically incorrect to go after China’s spies, so this is inexplicable in my view.”

Biden’s feckless, incompetent boob of an attorney general, Merrick Garland, as well as the equally incompetent Biden administration have been under pressure from activists and faculty at some universities over the program. They claim it’s “hurting” U.S. competitiveness in research and disproportionately targeting people based on race.

Michael German and Alex Liang, authors from the far-left, George Soros-funded Brennan Center, had this to say:

“To be clear, China poses a legitimate threat of espionage that the Justice Department and FBI must take seriously.

“But too often, the Justice Department has brought cases under the China Initiative that have not targeted espionage or intellectual property theft by Chinese spies, but minor administrative violations by scientists of Chinese ancestry who are not suspected of affiliation with the Chinese government.”

In response, Chang was apoplectic. He told Fox News Digital:

“That’s crap.

“Look, the reason they went after academics on technical charges was because making an espionage or treason case was too hard. So what they did was they felt the best use of prosecutorial resources was to go for the easy convictions. That’s not to say that these individuals were not guilty of serious crimes.”

Chang continued, explaining that China operates under a system where no citizen may refuse the government’s demand to spy on their behalf, meaning that all Chinese nationals are legitimate targets for inquiry. Chang said:

“It’s not about race. It’s about China forcing them to commit acts of espionage. The other thing is we know China targets American nationals of Chinese descent, and so again every ethnic Chinese is a legitimate target of counterespionage efforts because China has made them so. So, let’s drop this political wokeism. Let’s start defending our country because we’re going to lose it if we don’t.”

Meanwhile, writer and policy expert Ying Ma told Fox that even an appearance of race-based targeting is “unhelpful and undesirable,” while warning the threats from China are real. Ma said:

“The government that most aggressively targets Americans of Chinese descent is China’s. Unfortunately, some individuals are in fact susceptible—whether due to greed or a misplaced sense of Chinese nationalism, or both. Look at Eileen Gu betraying the United States at the Winter Olympics.”

“The threats from China are real. Let’s hope the Justice Department will find a more effective way than the China Initiative against espionage and the theft of American scientific research.”

One author referred to the decision as a potential disaster for the United States. Michael Pillsbury, author of “The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower,” said:

“This is clearly pouring cold water on individual FBI agents in the field. If this is interpreted to mean give Chinese technology cases a lower priority, it’s going to be a disaster.”

Fox reached out to the FBI for comment, however they didn’t immediately respond.

Congress is in the midst of passing legislation to oppose China, however House and Senate Democrats cannot agree on what should be included. Political leaders hope to reach a compromise and get something to Biden’s desk in the coming months.

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