Simon Saw-Teong Ang, a former engineering professor at the University of Arkansas, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday (July 29) on 42 counts of wire fraud and two counts of passport fraud. The accusations were detailed in a press release from the Department of Justice.
Ang was arrested May 8 and charged initially with one count of felony wire fraud. UA spokesman John Thomas said the university fired Ang July 2.
“The University continues to actively cooperate with the federal investigation in this matter,” Thomas wrote in an email.
“This case is the result of the tireless efforts of our Federal law enforcement partners at the FBI and the Diplomatic Security Service,” David Clay Fowlkes, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, said in a statement. “The wire fraud in this case affected not only the University of Arkansas, but also several other important United States government agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Air Force.
“It is our sincere hope that this investigation sends a strong message to those who would attempt to defraud the federal government.”
Ang, 63, had been a UA professor and researcher since 1988. He served as the director of the High Density Electronics Center (HiDEC) until this past May. During his employment, Ang was the investigator and co-investigator for many grant contracts that were funded by U.S. government agencies. Each year the UA required Ang to disclose any conflicts of interest, including outside employment.
Agents working with the FBI, according to Wednesday’s release, discovered that Ang received money and benefits from China and was closely associated with various companies based in China during the same time he was receiving grants from various U.S. government agencies. The agents discovered that Ang did not disclose the conflicts of interest, even when specifically required to do so by the UA and NASA, one of the agencies that awarded Ang and his research associates a federal grant.
The indictment charges that from June 9, 2013, to May 8, 2020, Ang devised a scheme to defraud and to obtain money and property from the government, the UA and others by false pretenses.
The indictment also charges Ang with two counts of making false statements on a passport renewal application. Specifically, on Aug. 5, 2019, Ang said in a passport application he was not known by any names other than “Simon Saw-Teong Ang,” which he knew to be false.
The indictment also said Ang listed immediate travel plans for a trip to Singapore with a departure date of Aug. 30, 2019, and a return date of Sept. 7, 2019, which he knew also to be false.
“Transparency and integrity have long sustained the pursuit of knowledge on America’s campuses,” assistant attorney general for national security John C. Demers said in a statement. “Mr. Ang is alleged to have demonstrated neither when he failed to disclose his financial and other ties to companies and institutions in China to the University of Arkansas and to U.S. government agencies, despite an obligation to do so.
“This is a hallmark of the China’s targeting of research and academic collaborations within the United States in order to obtain U.S. technology illegally. The Department of Justice will continue to work with colleges and universities to protect U.S. research and development from exploitation by foreign powers and will prosecute those who defraud the U.S. Government.”
If convicted, Ang faces a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count and 10 years in federal prison for each passport fraud count.