Former Arkansas Professor Pleads Guilty to Lying About China Patents

Former Arkansas Professor Pleads Guilty to Lying About China Patents
Simon Saw-Teong Ang. (Washington County Detention Center)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

A former professor at the University of Arkansas pleaded guilty on Jan. 21 to one count of making a false statement to the FBI about patents for his inventions in China.

Simon Saw-Teong Ang, 64, of Fayetteville, had 24 patents filed in China under his name or Chinese birth name, listing him as one of the co-inventors, according to court documents (pdf).

Despite a university requirement to disclose all inventions and patents, the Malaysian-born former professor, who is an American citizen, didn't disclose them. When questioned by the FBI whether his name would be listed as the inventor of numerous patents in China, he denied being the inventor.

"Yeah, I am not the inventor. I don't even know what that is," he told FBI special agent Jonathan Willett.

Under University of Arkansas policy, it would own all inventions created by those subject to the policy.

Separately, Ang also didn't disclose to the university—on conflict of interest disclosure forms—that he had received numerous talent awards from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Department of Justice (DOJ) noted.

Ang entered a guilty plea to a single count in a superseding indictment, which charged him with making a materially false and fictitious statement and representation to an FBI special agent, the department announced.

His sentencing is expected in about four months. He faces a maximum of five years in prison. However, the plea agreement also states that if the court seeks to sentence Ang to less than a year and a day in federal prison, he'll have the right to withdraw from the plea agreement.

Separately, Ang was arrested in May 2020 on wire fraud charges over his alleged ties to the Chinese regime. Ang, who had joined the University of Arkansas in 1998, was the director of the university's High Density Electronics Center at the time of his arrest. He was suspended without pay shortly after his arrest and fired less than two months later.
The DOJ said at the time of his arrest that Ang concealed he had "received money and benefits from China and was closely associated with various companies based in China during the same time he was receiving grants from various United States Government agencies,” including NASA.
In July, he was indicted by a federal grand jury, and pleaded not guilty. He faces a total of 55 counts of wire fraud and two counts of passport fraud. A jury trial over these charges is scheduled to begin on Feb. 7.

Ang's case is listed under the "China Initiative," which was begun by the DOJ during the Trump administration in November 2018. The initiative seeks to prosecute cases of economic espionage and trade secret theft backed by the CCP against the United States.

"About 80 percent of all economic espionage prosecutions brought by the U.S. Department of Justice allege conduct that would benefit the Chinese state, and there is at least some nexus to China in around 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases," according to the department.