University of Kansas Researcher Indicted for Fraud for Failing to Disclose Conflict of Interest with Chinese University

  • A researcher at the University of Kansas (KU) was indicted today on federal charges of hiding the
    fact he was working full time for a Chinese university while doing research at KU funded by the U.S.
    government.
  • Feng “Franklin” Tao, an associate professor at KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis
    (CEBC) since August 2014, is charged with one count of wire fraud and three counts of program
    fraud.
  • “Tao is alleged to have defrauded the U.S. government by unlawfully receiving federal grant money
    at the same time that he was employed and paid by a Chinese research university — a fact that he
    hid from his university and federal agencies,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers for National
    Security. “Any potential conflicts of commitment by a researcher must be disclosed as required by
    law and university policies. The Department will continue to pursue any unlawful failure to do so.”
  • The indictment alleges that in May 2018 Tao signed a five-year contract with Fuzhou University in
    China that designated him as a Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor. The contract required
    him to be a full time employee of the Chinese university.
  • While Tao was under contract with Fuzhou University, he was also conducting research at KU that
    was funded through two U.S. Department of Energy contracts and four National Science Foundation
    contracts.
  • Kansas Board of Regents’ policy requires staff to file an annual conflict of interest report. Tao’s
    report to KU falsely claimed to have no conflicts of interest. The indictment alleges that he
    fraudulently received more than $37,000 in salary paid for by the Department of Energy and the
    National Science Foundation.
  • If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the wire fraud
    count, and up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000 on each of the program fraud counts.