Feng “Franklin” Tao was guilty of one count of making a false statement but not of three counts of wire fraud, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled on Tuesday.
Tao carried out work for Fuzhou University in China while he was employed at the University of Kansas. However, Robinson determined that prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence Tao was compensated for his Fuzhou University work, a requirement of being convicted of wire fraud.
“During the time period of the alleged scheme to defraud, Tao continued to rightfully receive his salary from KU for his services and continued to successfully perform the research required by DOE and NSF under their research grants,” Robinson wrote.
Tao began working for Fuzhou University in 2018, accepting a position as a Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor.
When Tao moved to China to work full time at Fuzhou, he told the University of Kansas that he was in Europe, authorities said.
Authorities said Tao also concealed his employment at Fuzhou University from the University of Kansas, despite having to file regular reports about any employment that presented a conflict of interest. Tao conducted research at Kansas using government grants, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursement requests to the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
Tao was convicted as part of the Department of Justice’s now defunct China Initiative. The DOJ shut down the program, which was designed to tamp down on Chinese spying in the U.S., in February after accusations of bias against Chinese professors.
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Adam Sabes contributed to this report.