New Indictment: KU Researcher Concealed Being Recruited For Chinese ‘Talent’ Program

KANSAS CITY, KAN. – Feng “Franklin” Tao, 47, of Lawrence, Kan., was charged today in a superseding indictment with two counts of wire fraud and one count of program fraud. The indictment alleges Tao concealed from University of Kansas officials work he was doing for China while employed full time as an associate professor at KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis. Some of Tao’s research at KU was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The superseding indictment elaborates on an indictment a grand jury returned in August 2019. It describes how China offered competitive salaries, state-of-the-art research facilities and honorific titles to researchers who joined talent programs and urged them to recruit others.

If convicted, the defendant could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each of the wire fraud counts and up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000 on the program fraud count.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the assigned judge.

The University of Kansas cooperated and assisted in the FBI’s investigation of the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi and Nathan Charles, trial attorney for the Counterespionage and Export Control Section (CTS) of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, are prosecuting.

OTHER INDICTMENTS

Lance Ashley is charged with four counts of failing to pay over employment taxes. The crimes are alleged to have occurred during 2014 through 2017.

Ashley owned Ashley Home Care Services, LLC, which was a Kansas corporation with a registered office in Overland Park. It is alleged he withheld employment taxes from employees’ paychecks without fully paying those taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. The indictment alleges he failed to pay more than $13,386 for tax year 2013, $48,847 for 2014, $63,933 for 2015 and $78,055 for 2016.

If convicted, he could face up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count. The Internal Revenue Service investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Leon Patton is prosecuting.

Roberto Gallegos-Garcia, 43, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with unlawfully re-entering the United States after being deported. He was found Dec. 19, 2019, in Sedgwick County, Kan.

If convicted, he could face up to two years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. The Department of Homeland Security, Enforcement and Removal Operations, investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Metzger is prosecuting.

Leo Carlos Pacheco-Santos, 20, Passaic, N.J., is charged with failing to appear for a court hearing on charges including wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He failed to appear in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., on Oct. 7, 2019.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. The U.S. Marshals Service investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Oakley is prosecuting.

In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.