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Five months after a federal jury convicted him from illegally hiding work he was doing for China, a judge has dropped three of four convictions against a University of Kansas investigator.
Feng “Franklin” Tao was guilty of one count of making a false statement but not three counts of fraud, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled Tuesday.
Tao performed work for Fuzhou University in China while he was employed at the University of Kansas. However, Robinson determined that prosecutors had not provided enough evidence that Tao was being compensated for his work at Fuzhou University, a requirement to be convicted of wire fraud.
FORMER PROFESSOR OF KANSAS UNIVERSITY FOUND GUILTY OF HIDING LINKS TO CHINA
“During the period of the alleged fraudulent scheme, Tao continued to legitimately receive his salary from KU for his services and continued to successfully conduct the research that DOE and NSF required as part of their research grants,” Robinson wrote.
Tao started working for Fuzhou University in 2018 and accepted a position as Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor.
When Tao moved to China to work full-time in Fuzhou, he told the University of Kansas that he was in Europe, authorities said.
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Authorities said Tao also hid his work at Fuzhou University from the University of Kansas, despite regularly having to file reports about work that presented a conflict of interest. Tao conducted research in Kansas with government grants, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in refund requests to the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
Tao was convicted as part of the Ministry of Justice now defunct China Initiative. The DOJ halted the program in February, which was designed to crack down on Chinese espionage in the US, amid accusations of bias against Chinese professors.
TBEN News’ The Bharat Express News and Adam Sabes contributed to this report.