Mathematics Professor and University Researcher Indicted for Grant Fraud

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

WASHINGTON – Today, a federal grand jury in Carbondale, Ill. returned an indictment charging a mathematics professor and researcher at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale (SIUC) with two counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement.

According to court documents, Mingqing Xiao, 59, of Makanda, Illinois, 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.

“Again, an American professor stands accused of enabling the Chinese government’s efforts to corruptly benefit from U.S. research funding by lying about his obligations to, and support from, an arm of the Chinese government and a Chinese public university,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division (NSD). “Honesty  and transparency about funding sources lie at the heart of the scientific research enterprise. They enable U.S. agencies to distribute scarce grants for scientific research fairly and equitably. And they allow other researchers to evaluate potential conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment.  When researchers fall short of fulfilling these core academic values in ways that violate the law, the Department stand ready to investigate and prosecute.”

“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,” said Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “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.”

“The FBI takes seriously its commitment to work with our partners in academia to protect U.S. research funded grants,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean M. Cox of the FBI’s Springfield Field Office. “This investigation, like so many others, should serve as a reminder that failure to be truthful and transparent on an application for U.S. funded grants is a violation of the law. In this case the applicant allegedly failed to disclose his affiliation with China. Individuals who fail to disclose their affiliation with any foreign nation will be held accountable.”

“The charges in this case are very serious,” said U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft for the Southern District of Illinois. “University grant fraud allows China to co-opt U.S. research and development at a fraction of the cost. Prosecutions like this one play an important role, not just in protecting American investments in academic research from foreign exploitation, but also in combating the growing threat that China poses to our national security. We will continue to work with our partners at NSD and the FBI on these important cases.”

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