FAYETTEVILLE -- A federal grand jury has indicted a former University of Arkansas, Fayetteville professor on 42 counts of wire fraud after prosecutors said he concealed ties to China while applying for NASA and U.S. Air Force research grants.
Simon Ang "knowingly made materially fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions" on a 2016 NASA grant application, states an indictment announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The fraud led to wire transfers to UA accounts, court documents state. Ang, 63, also faces two counts of making a false statement in applying for a passport. He is said in the indictment to also be known by the name Hong Sizhong, but failed to disclose any aliases in a 2019 passport application.
Wide-ranging efforts by the FBI have examined ties between China and U.S. researchers, with arrests this year of professors at Harvard and the University of Tennessee accused of fraud or making fraudulent statements while hiding ties to China.
The indictment alleges that Ang failed to disclose participation in Chinese "talents plans," described as "a Chinese government national strategy" that involves the recruitment of experts from around the world. These "various" talent programs "use financial, personal, and professional benefits in exchange for working with universities, businesses, and state-owned enterprises in China," the indictment states.
Ang joined UA's engineering faculty in 1988 and was director of the university's High Density Electronics Center, or HiDEC.
After his May 8 arrest, the university suspended him without pay. UA spokesman Mark Rushing said Wednesday that Ang was terminated from his job July 2.
"The University continues to actively cooperate with the federal investigation in this matter," Rushing said in an email.
Ang failed to disclose his ties to China on UA conflict-of-interest forms, the indictment states.
The indictment also refers to a 2017 grant application "prepared" by him and submitted to the Air Force by Fayetteville company Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc.
Matt Francis, president and CEO of Ozark Integrated Circuits in a statement said the company was made aware of the charges against Ang by the FBI.
"We are one of many small businesses that contract with HiDEC, the center he directed," Francis said, adding that "Dr. Ang has never been an employee of Ozark IC and was never involved in our day-to-day operations."
The company has been "cooperating with the investigation and will continue to do so," Francis said.
The wire transactions listed in the indictment add up to $515,548 in NASA grant money and $1,074,811 in Air Force grants.
The court document also states that Ang did not disclose financial ties to Chinese companies where he held ownership or officer positions. An FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville in May stated that Chinese news articles about Ang's participation in companies used the Chinese Pinyin writing system to refer to him by the name Hong Sizhong.
Grant money "would also be used, in part, to fund the salaries of researchers that [he] supervised and instructed to conduct research on behalf of companies he was affiliated with in China," the indictment states.
Court documents list Drew Ledbetter as Ang's attorney. Ledbetter did not return a phone message or respond to an email seeking comment.
After being held at the Washington County jail, Ang was released May 29 on a $200,000 bond to home detention. An arraignment is scheduled for today by videoconference, with the proceedings in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.
Prosecuting the case are Acting U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes from the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith and Michael Eaton and Ali Ahmad, trial attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Security Division, according to Wednesday's announcement.
"The Department of Justice will continue to work with colleges and universities to protect U.S. research and development from exploitation by foreign powers and will prosecute those who defraud the U.S. Government," John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.