Dr. James Patrick Lewis, of Fairview, West Virginia, has admitted to a fraud charge involving West Virginia University, the Department of Justice announced.
Lewis, age 54, pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with “Federal Program Fraud.” From 2006 to August 2019, Lewis was a tenured professor at West Virginia University in the physics department, specializing in molecular reactions used in coal conversion technologies. In July 2017, Lewis entered into a contract of employment with the People’s Republic of China through its “Global Experts 1000 Talents Plan.” China’s Thousand Talents Plan is one of the most prominent Chinese Talent recruit plans that are designed to attract, recruit, and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security. These talent programs seek to lure overseas talent and foreign experts to bring their knowledge and experience to China and reward individuals for stealing proprietary information.
“Lewis defrauded a public university into giving him leave, so that he could satisfy his competing obligations to a Chinese institution, which he hid from the school,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “I applaud the increased focus of the academic community to detect conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment. Only with more transparency will we stem the tide of covert ties to Chinese institutions and programs, ties meant by the Chinese government to result in the transfer of intellectual property from the United States.”