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Five months after a federal jury sentenced illegally concealing work he did for China, a judge overturned three of four convictions against a University of Kansas researcher.
Feng “Franklin” Tao was guilty of one count of misrepresentation, but not three counts of wire fraud, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said Tuesday.
Tao has done work for Fuzhou University in China while employed at the University of Kansas. However, Robinson determined that prosecutors did not provide enough evidence that Tao had been compensated for his work at Fuzhou University, a requirement to be convicted of wire fraud.
FORMER KANSAS UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR FOUND GUILTY OF HIDING CHINA LINKS
“During the period of the alleged fraud scheme, Tao rightly continued to receive his salary from KU for his services and continued to successfully complete the research required by the DOE and NSF under their research grants” , wrote Robinson.
Tao began working for Fuzhou University in 2018, accepting a Changjiang Scholar Emeritus Professor position.
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 job at Fuzhou University from the University of Kansas, although he must file regular reports on any job that involved a conflict of interest. Tao conducted research in Kansas using government grants, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims to the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
Tao was convicted as part of the Justice Department investigation now defunct China Initiative. The DOJ shut down the program, which was designed to curb Chinese espionage in the United States, in February after accusations of bias against Chinese professors.
The Associated Press and Adam Sabes of Fox News contributed to this report.