Export Control Case Studies

Looking for examples of responsible research behavior to avoid risks of impacting research enterprise? Want to know more about the responsibility to disclose work for foreign institutions or governments? Read these case studies that had consequences from export control violations to universities (and faculty/employees).

Thomas Campbell Butler, a professor at Texas Tech University, was charged and sentenced to prison for engaging in conduct prohibited by export control regulations when he exported the human pathogen Yersinia pestis (the causative agent of human plague)) to Tanzania without the required U.S. Department of Commerce license –  charging documents from BIS, August 2006

Casting a wide net: China’s encryption restrictions – Reprinted from the November 2011 issue of WorldECR, the Journal of Export Controls and Compliance

Sixing Liu, a US permanent resident,, was charged with violating export control laws for the unauthorized transfer of technical data relating to defense navigation systems – ExportLaw blog  -September 13, 2012

Timothy Gormley, a US citizen from Pennsylvania sentenced to prison for illegally exporting goods to China, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Russia, Mexico, and other countries. He claimed he was “too busy” to obtain the licenses and overwhelmed at work. US Department of Justice – Eastern District of Pennsylvania – January 17, 2013

Ali Saboonchi, a U.S. citizen from Maryland, and a citizen and resident of Iran, were indicted in plot to export industrial products and services to Iran violating the U.S. Embargo against Iran –  US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – March 7, 2013

The  Center for Atmospheric Research at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (UML) and Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) agree to settle allegations of exporting two instruments to the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission in violation of export control laws – charging documents from BIS, March 15, 2013

Three Chinese citizens, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine, were arrested in connection to pass nonpublic information from research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to a Chinese company with ties to the Chinese government –  Science.org, American Association for the Advancement of Science, May 31, 2013

Xiafen “Sherry” Chen, a naturalized American and employee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was charged with stealing sensitive infrastructure data from an Army Corps of Engineers database and then met with a Chinese government official in Beijing – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – October 20, 2014

Wentong Cai, a Chinese national living in the United States on a student visa plead guilty for scheming to illegally export defense articles with military application to China in violations of the Arms Export Control Act – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – December 15, 2014

FBI analysis of the China’s “Thousand Talents Program”  as a national security threat to US businesses and universities through economic espionage and theft of IP –  September 2015

Feng “Franklin” Tao, a researcher at the University of Kansas Researcher, is indicted for allegedly defrauding the U.S. government by unlawfully receiving federal grant money at the same time that he was employed and paid by a Chinese research university – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – August 21, 2019

Masoud Soleimani, a stem-cell researcher at Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran, and his former students were all charged with attempting to export chemicals known as growth factors (used to culture cells in regenerative medicine) without obtaining permission from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) – Nature  – December 13, 2019. The case indictment text is found here.

Qing Wang, a former Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF) employee, is charged with false claims and wire fraud related to grant funding, had failed to disclose to NIH that he had an affiliation with the Huazhong University of Science and Technology and is alleged to have participated in the Thousand Talents Program – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – May 14, 2020

Hao Zhang, a Chinese citizen, is sentenced for economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, and conspiracy related to filters are commonly used as radio frequency (“RF”) filters for mobile phones and other devices for consumer and military applications – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – September 1, 2020

MIT professor, Gang Chen,  arrested and charged with grant fraud for allegedly failed to disclose his work for the People’s Republic of China to U.S. Department of Energy – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – January 14, 2021

Song Guo Zheng, an Ohio man and rheumatology professor and researcher at The Ohio State University and ties to the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents program, is sentenced to prison for lying on NIH grant applications to develop China’s expertise in the areas of rheumatology and immunology – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – May 14, 2021

Two U.S. citizens, Marc Baier Ryan Adams and a former U.S. citizen, Daniel Gerick, were charge with violations of U.S. export control, computer fraud and access device fraud laws for services included in the support, direction and supervision in the creation of sophisticated “zero-click” computer hacking and intelligence gathering systems – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – September 14, 2021

Harvard University professor, Dr. Charles Lieber, convicted of making false statements and Tax concealing his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology and his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – December 21, 2021

Dismissal of the Gang Chen Case – US Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs – January 20, 2022

Jury convicts former Kansas professor for hiding ties to Chinese government – FOX4KC WDAF-TV – April 7, 2022

Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency directive to prohibit the use of TikTok, and other China and Russia-based products and platforms for state government officials. The directive also applies to Huawei Technologies; ZTE Corp; Tencent Holdings, including but not limited to: Tencent QQ, QQ Wallet, and WeChat; Alibaba products, including but not limited to: AliPay; and Kaspersky – CBSNew Baltimore web site, December 5, 2022

To learn more, the UMBC Office of Research Protections and Compliance can present information to departments, labs and administrative groups on campus.  We would be more than happy to meet with you or your unit.  Please feel free to contact us at compliance@umbc.edu.

updated 12.6.2022

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