Harvard-affiliated researcher admits he tried to smuggle US cancer research to China

A Harvard-affiliated researcher was arrested in December 2019 while allegedly trying to take vials of medical material onto a flight to China.

He pleaded guilty to charges of lying to federal officials.

Zaosong Zheng, who worked in research at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, pleaded guilty to lying to customs officials about his attempt to take biomaterial to China.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Zheng was arrested in December 2019 at Boston’s Logan International Airport, where he had attempted to board a flight to China. Federal officers found 21 vials of biological research material stuffed into a sock in one of his bags.

According to the release, “the charge of making false, fictitious and fraudulent statements provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.” 

Charges of visa fraud and acting as an agent of a foreign government carry ten-year sentences and additional fines of $250,000.

In his plea deal, Zheng agreed to leave the country after his January hearing, and prosecutors will drop the charge of smuggling research. A judge will decide whether Zheng faces further penalties at his January 6, 2021 hearing.

[RELATED: Prof who referred to COVID-19 as ‘Chinese Virus’ placed on leave for semester, future with university uncertain]

Campus Reform has covered several situations in which American academics and Chinese nationals attempted to defraud universities on behalf of the People’s Republic of China.

Recently, Song Guo Zheng, a former Ohio State University and Penn State University researcher, pleaded guilty to using federal grants to develop medicine for China. 

Similar to Zaosong Zheng, Song Guo Zheng was arrested in Alaska as he tried to board a charter flight from Anchorage to China. 

[RELATED: Researcher lies about grant applications, uses funds to develop medicine for China]

He was carrying “three large bags, one small suitcase and a briefcase containing two laptops, three cell phones, several USB drives, several silver bars, expired Chinese passports for his family, deeds for property in China and other items," according to the Justice Department. 

Campus Reform reached out to Harvard University for comment and will update this article accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft