Former Ohio State researcher sentenced for trying to divert U.S. grants to China

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A former researcher and professor at The Ohio State University has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for trying to divert National Institutes of Health grants to China.

Song Guo Zheng, 58, of Hilliard, was also ordered to pay more than $3.4 million in restitution to the NIH and approximately $413,000 to OSU.

Zheng was arrested on May 22, 2020, as he prepared to board a chartered flight to China. At the time, authorities say he was carrying laptops, cell phones, USB drives, silver bars, expired Chinese passports, and deeds for property in China.

The former rheumatology professor and researcher pleaded guilty in November 2020 and admitted he lied on applications for NIH grants. Court records show he planned to use approximately $4.1 million in grants to develop China’s rheumatology and immunology research.

According to his plea, Zheng caused materially false and misleading statements on NIH grant applications, seeking to hide his participation in Chinese Talent Plans and his affiliation and collaboration with a Chinese university controlled by the Chinese government.

Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio media release

“American research funding is provided by the American taxpayer for the benefit of American society—not as an illicit gift to the Chinese Government,” said Vipal J. Patel, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, in a statement.

Authorities say Zheng’s scheme began around 2013 when he used U.S. research to benefit the People’s Republic of China.

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