(DOJ) The former Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department was convicted by a federal jury today in connection with lying to federal authorities about his affiliation with the People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Program and the Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) in Wuhan, China, as well as failing to report income he received from WUT.
Dr. Charles Lieber, 62, was convicted following a six-day jury trial of two counts of making false statements to federal authorities, two counts of making and subscribing a false income tax return and two counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts (FBAR) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel will sentence Lieber at a later date that has not yet been scheduled.
Lieber was indicted in June 2020 and was subsequently charged in a superseding indictment in July 2020.
Lieber served as the Principal Investigator of the Lieber Research Group at Harvard University, which received more than $15 million in federal research grants between 2008 and 2019.
Unbeknownst to his employer, Harvard University, Lieber became a “Strategic Scientist” at WUT and, later, a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan from at least 2012 through 2015.
China’s Thousand Talents Plan is one of the most prominent talent recruitment plans designed to attract, recruit and cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security.
Under the terms of Lieber’s three-year Thousand Talents contract, WUT paid Lieber a salary of up to $50,000 per month, living expenses of up to $150,000 and awarded him more than $1.5 million to establish a research lab at WUT.
In 2018 and 2019, Lieber lied to federal authorities about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan and his affiliation with WUT.
In tax years 2013 and 2014, Lieber earned income from WUT in the form of salary and other payments made to him pursuant to the Strategic Scientist and Thousand Talents Contracts, which he did not disclose to the IRS on his federal income tax returns.
Lieber, together with WUT officials, opened a bank account at a Chinese bank during a trip to Wuhan in 2012.
Thereafter, between at least 2013 and 2015, WUT periodically deposited portions of Lieber’s salary into that account.
U.S. taxpayers are required to report the existence of any foreign bank account that holds more than $10,000 at any time during a given year by the filing an FBAR with the IRS. Lieber failed to file FBARs for the years 2014 and 2015.
The charge of making false statements provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of making and subscribing false income tax returns provides for a sentence of up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. The charge of failing to file an FBAR provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting U.S. Attorney Mendell; National Security AAG Olsen; FBI SAC Bonavolonta; DCIS SAC Hegarty; NCIS SAC Wiest; HHS OIG SAC Coyne; and IRS CI SAC Simpson made this announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Casey of Mendell’s National Security Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Drabick of Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.
Charles M. Lieber was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1959. He attended Franklin and Marshall College for his undergraduate education and graduated with honors in Chemistry.
After doctoral studies at Stanford University and postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology, he moved to the East Coast in 1987 to assume a position of Assistant Professor at Columbia University.
Here Lieber embarked upon a new research program addressing the synthesis and properties of low-dimensional materials.
He moved to Harvard University in 1991 and now holds a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, as the Joshua and Beth Friedman University Professor, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
At Harvard, Lieber has pioneered the synthesis of a broad range of nanoscale materials, the characterization of the unique physical properties of these materials and the development of methods of hierarchical assembly of nanoscale wires, together with the demonstration of applications of these materials in nanoelectronics, nanocomputing, biological and chemical sensing, neurobiology and nanophotonics.
Lieber has also developed and applied a new chemically sensitive microscopy for probing organic and biological materials at nanometer to molecular scales.
His work has been recognized by a number of awards, including the 2017 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award; 2013 Willard Gibbs Medal; 2012 Wolf Prize in Chemistry; Fred Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Nanoscience (2010); Inorganic Nanoscience Award of the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry (2009); Einstein Award, Chinese Academy of Sciences (2008); NBIC Research Excellence Award, University of Pennsylvania (2007); Nanotech Briefs Nano 50 Award (2005); ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials (2004); World Technology Award in Materials (2004 and 2003); Scientific American 50 Award in Nanotechnology and Molecular Electronics (2003); New York Intellectual Property Law Association Inventor of the Year (2003); APS McGroddy Prize for New Materials (2003); Harrison Howe Award, University of Rochester (2002); MRS Medal (2002); Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (2001); NSF Creativity Award (1996); and ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (1992).
Lieber is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow of the Materials Research Society and American Chemical Society (Inaugural Class), Honorary Fellow of the Chinese Chemical Society, and member of the American Physical Society, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, International Society for Optical Engineering and American Association for the Advancement of Science. Lieber is Co-Editor of Nano Letters, and serves on the Editorial and Advisory Boards of a large number of science and technology journals.
Lieber has published over 340 papers in peer-reviewed journals and is the principal inventor on more than 35 patents. In his spare time, Lieber has been active in commercializing nanotechnology, and has founded the nanotechnology companies: Nanosys, Inc. in 2001 and the new nanosensor company Vista Therapeutics in 2007.