Suspended Arkansas Professor Faces 42 Counts of Wire Fraud Over Ties with China

Suspended Arkansas Professor Faces 42 Counts of Wire Fraud Over Ties with China
Simon Saw-Teong Ang. (Washington County Detention Center)
Frank Fang

A Malaysian-born professor was indicted by a federal grand jury in Arkansas on multiple charges of passport and wire fraud, mostly connected to his failure to disclose ties to China and Chinese companies.

Simon Saw-Teong Ang, 63, was a professor and researcher at the University of Arkansas (UA) beginning in 1988. Ang was also director of the university’s High Density Electronics Center. He was arrested in May on wire fraud and subsequently suspended by UA without pay.

Ang was indicted on 42 accounts of wire fraud and two counts of passport fraud, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

“This is a hallmark of China’s targeting of research and academic collaborations within the United States in order to obtain U.S. technology illegally,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, in a DOJ press release issued on July 29.

The 44-count indictment, returned on July 28, revealed wire fraud charges covering Ang’s activities from June 9, 2013 until May 8 this year. The wire fraud charges for the alleged transmission of Ang’s individual grant payments received from NASA and the United States Air Force (USAF).

Ang defrauded UA, NASA, and USAF by omitting references to “talent plan awards, money, and property” given to him by Beijing, and his “affiliation, employment, and ownership of various companies in China” on his research proposals sent to NASA and USAF, according to prosecutors.  He also omitted these references when filing his annual conflict of interest forms required by UA.

For years, China’s central authorities and regional governments have all rolled out talent recruitment programs, targeting promising overseas Chinese and foreigners in science and technology fields, in an effort to fulfill Beijing’s ambition for global tech dominance.

The Thousand Talents Plan has especially come under close scrutiny by U.S. officials in recent years. Rolled out by Beijing in 2008, it has recruited over 7,000 scientists and researchers from around the world as of 2017, according to a 2019 Senate report.

According to the indictment, Ang was selected as a “national distinguished expert” under the Thousand Talents Plan. But it is unclear whether he received funding from the plan.

In 2018, Ang was one of 20 recipients of the Qilu Friendship Award, according to the indictment.

The provincial government in eastern China’s Shandong Province established the Qilu award in 1993 for foreign experts who made valuable contributions to the province’s economy and society. According to Chinese state-run media, 518 foreigners received the award as of December 2019.

Ang was also affiliated with multiple Chinese companies. From 2012 to 2016, he was the chief technology officer for Gande Electronic Technology, which manufactures lighting control and design products. In 2019, he was the chief technology officer for Binzhou Maotong Dianzi Keji Corporation, which makes hydrogen fuel cell vehicle control systems.

At one point, Ang instructed his researchers at UA to conduct research and work on behalf of Chinese companies he was affiliated with, despite the fact that these researchers were being paid by UA and U.S. government agencies, according to the indictment.

Ang was also accused of making false statements on a passport renewal application on Aug. 5, 2019. According to the indictment, he falsely claimed that he was not known by any other names aside from “Simon Saw-Teong Ang.” According to the indictment, Ang is also known as “Hong Sizhong.”

According to the Associated Press, Ang is free on a $200,000 bond.

Ang faces a statutory maximum punishment of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count and 10 years in prison for each passport fraud count. 
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
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