Lin Yang, a University of Florida professor and researcher, has been indicted for fraudulently obtaining nearly $2 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health by concealing financial ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
According to the Department of Justice, Yang’s charges include six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States:
Yang obtained a $1.75 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and disseminate an imaging informatics tool for muscles known as “MuscleMiner.” Between September 2014 and July 2019, Yang served as the principal investigator for the NIH grant at UF. As the principal investigator, Yang was responsible for conducting and administering the grant in compliance with applicable federal law and institutional policies. Among other things, Yang was required to disclose his foreign research support and financial conflicts of interest, including his ownership of, or interest in, a foreign company.
During that same period, in 2016, Yang established a business in China known as “Deep Informatics.” The indictment further alleges that Yang promoted his business in China by relating that its products were the result of years of research supported by millions of dollars of U.S. government funding. Simultaneously, Yang applied for and was accepted into the People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Program (TTP) in connection with Northwestern Polytechnic University, located in Xi’an, China. The TTP was a talent plan established by the Chinese government to encourage the transfer of original ideas, technology, and intellectual property from foreign institutions, such as American universities.
In order to maintain his employment with UF and continue receiving NIH grant money, the indictment alleges that Yang intentionally concealed his conflicts of interest and other support in connection with his Chinese business and his participation in a Chinese government talent plan and affiliation with a Chinese research university. On multiple occasions, Yang submitted disclosures to NIH containing false statements and material omissions concerning his affiliations and research endeavors with a foreign government and company. Additionally, in January 2019, UF’s College of Engineering required all faculty to provide, in writing, updated disclosures concerning activities with foreign entities in China and two other countries. The indictment alleges that Yang provided UF with a written response that falsely stated he had no affiliation with any business, entity, or university in China.
The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury under the Trump administration on December 15th, 2020 but unsealed today.
“The taxpayer dollars that funded Yang’s research were intended to benefit the health and well-being of U.S. citizens. But our indictment alleges that Yang engaged in acts of deliberate deception so that he could also further the research goals of the Chinese Communist government and advance his own business interests,” said U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe for the Northern District of Florida.