KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors alleged Tuesday that a Kansas researcher illegally kept his work with a Chinese university secret, while the defense countered that he was merely “moonlighting.”
The conflicting portrayals came during opening statements in the trial of Feng “Franklin” Tao in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, on charges of wire and program fraud. He is accused of not disclosing on conflict-of-interest forms the work he was doing for China while employed at the University of Kansas — something federal prosecutors contend is a scheme to defraud the university, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
Tao’s case was part of what the Justice Department called its China Initiative, an effort created in 2018 to crack down on trade secret theft and economic espionage. The department last month ended the initiative following public criticism and failed prosecutions, though officials say they still intend to pursue the threat from China.