COLUMBUS, Ohio — A medical researcher and professor who had been working most recently at Ohio State University pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge stemming from what prosecutors called a sophisticated scheme to transfer U.S.-backed research to China.
Song Guo Zheng, 58, of suburban Hilliard, and his research groups secured more than $4.3 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health for projects while receiving overlapping funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, according to a criminal complaint unsealed this year.
Zheng worked in the division of rheumatology and immunology at OSU's Wexner Medical Center. He pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to federal investigators. Zheng admitted he lied on applications in order to use the NIH grants to develop China's expertise in the areas of rheumatology and immunology, the government said.
Federal agents arrested Zheng in Alaska in May as, they said, he was attempting to board a private flight headed to China. Zheng faces as many as five years in prison. A message was left with his attorneys seeking comment.
Before moving to Ohio, Zheng worked at the University of Southern California and Penn State University, according to the government.
Ohio State fired Zheng after he "failed to disclose his extensive paid work at a foreign institution," said university spokesman Ben Johnson.