The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted a former UF professor for fraudulently receiving $1.76 million in federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance his company and research in China.
Lin Yang, 43, a former researcher and associate professor in UF’s biomedical engineering department, was charged with six counts of wire fraud, or internet fraud, and four counts of making false statements to a U.S. agency, according to the Department of Justice.
While working at UF from 2014 to 2019, Yang was a recipient of NIH funding, which is granted to American institutions for medical technology research and requires disclosure of any conflicts of interest or foreign research involvement. From 2016 to 2018, he received a salary of more than $290,000 provided by UF through the NIH grant funds, according to the complaint.
In 2016, Yang created a company called “Deep Informatics” in China and used his UF email to create a website for the business. He used NIH grant money to support the new company, according to the DOJ complaint. He promoted his business in China by advertising its products as a result of years of research supported by U.S. government funding.
Yang told UF and NIH he did not have a business in a foreign country. He provided a written disclosure to UF’s College of Engineering in January 2019 falsely stating he had no affiliation with any business, entity or university in China, according to the complaint.
Around the same time he created “Deep Informatics,” Yang applied and was accepted into People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Program (TPP), a program established by the Chinese government to encourage people from other countries to bring their skills and expertise to China.
Yang was selected to participate in the program and sponsored by a Chinese University while still receiving NIH funding at UF. According to the complaint, Yang hid his affiliation with the Chinese university and TPP from the NIH and UF.
He also submitted multiple false statements to NIH about his association with the foreign government and company, according to the DOJ complaint.
UF began investigating Yang in Summer 2019, and he resigned the same year, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in a text message.
According to a ProPublica article, Yang denied the findings from UF’s investigation, in which investigators said Yang “hid being Chief Executive, founder and owner of an unidentified China-based company,” stating he applied but did not join TTP and did not have any foreign grants in China at the time.
“We hold our employees to high ethical standards, and all are accountable to follow our policies and the law,” Orlando wrote in an email. “The university cooperated fully with the federal authorities’ investigation in this matter, as is our responsibility as a public institution and a steward of taxpayer monies.”
For each count of wire fraud, Yang faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, he faces a maximum sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine per count of false statements to a U.S. agency. In total, the charges would be about $2.5 million and 140 years. When the offenses were committed, Yang resided in Tampa.
According to the DOJ, Yang traveled to China in August 2019 and has yet to return to the United States.
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Anna Wilder is a second-year journalism major and the criminal justice reporter. She's from Melbourne, Florida, and she enjoys being outdoors or playing the viola when she's not writing.
Juliana Ferrie is a second-year UF journalism student. She is excited to be working for The Alligator as the Santa Fe Beat reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading or listening to music.