A researcher at the University of Kansas (KU) has been indicted on federal charges of hiding the fact he was working full time for a Chinese university while doing research at KU funded by the U.S. government. Feng “Franklin” Tao, 47, of Lawrence, Kansas, an associate professor at KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC), is charged with one count of wire fraud and three counts of program fraud.  He was employed since August 2014 by the CEBC, whose mission is to conduct research on sustainable technology to conserve natural resources and energy. His bio and academic papers are listed here: Miller Associate Professor Tao ; All Publications Tao

The indictment alleges that in May 2018 Tao signed a five-year contract with Fuzhou University in China that designated him as a Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor.  The contract required him to be a full time employee of the Chinese university.  While Tao was under contract with Fuzhou University, he was conducting research at KU that was funded through two U.S. Department of Energy contracts and four National Science Foundation contracts.

Kansas Board of Regents’ policy requires staff to file an annual conflict of interest report.  In Tao’s reports to KU, he falsely claimed to have no conflicts of interest.  The indictment alleges that he fraudulently received more than $37,000 in salary paid for by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the wire fraud count, and up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000 on each of the program fraud counts.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the assigned judge.

The University of Kansas cooperated and assisted in the FBI’s investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi is prosecuting.