Former Sandia Scientist Pleads Guilty to Taking Government Property to China

Jianyu Huang, a scientist formerly employed by Sandia Corporation (Sandia) at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), pleaded guilty this afternoon to making a false statement and unlawfully transporting converted government property in interstate and foreign commerce. The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division.

Huang, 46, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the People’s Republic of China who resides in Albuquerque, N.M., was arrested in June 2012, on a six-count indictment charging him with misusing U.S. government resources and equipment to conduct research for Chinese research institutions and with falsely stating that he did not intend to take U.S. government equipment with him on a trip to China. The indictment subsequently was superseded to add an interstate transportation of converted property charge and a theft of government property charge. Huang was employed by Sandia until his employment was terminated in late April 2012.

SNL is a government-owned research facility operated by Sandia Corporation for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that is responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation’s nuclear stockpile; enhancing the security of energy and other critical resources; reducing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; addressing threats to national security; and protecting the nation against terrorism. The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CiNT) is a DOE user facility and science research center devoted to establishing scientific principles that govern the design, performance, and integration of materials on the atomic and molecular scale, located at SNL.

In light of the sensitivity of SNL’s work, all Sandia employees are required to report to the Sandia Office of Counterintelligence (SOC) any substantive relationship with foreign nationals, including associations that involve meeting and sharing work-related information. Sandia employees also are required to submit to interviews with SOC before international travel on official business, and are prohibited from bringing government-owned equipment on international travel without prior approval.

Huang was employed by Sandia at CiNT, where he worked in an unclassified open science facility without access to classified national security information. As a Sandia employee, Huang was prohibited from bringing government-owned equipment on international travel without prior approval.

Counts 1 through 5 of the second superseding indictment charged Huang with federal program fraud and alleged that between Jan. 2009 and Jan. 2012, Huang unlawfully and without authority used DOE equipment, materials and property to conduct research for businesses and universities in the People’s Republic of China. Count 6 charged Huang with making a false statement charge to a federal officer and alleged that, in June 2011, Huang falsely represented to a counterintelligence officer that he would not take any U.S. government electronic equipment with him on an upcoming trip to the People’s Republic of China. The statement was false because Huang knew that he intended to take a U.S. government computer and hard-drive to the People’s Republic of China on that trip, and did in fact take that equipment with him. Count 7 charged Huang with the interstate transportation of converted property charge and alleged that between June 30, 2011 and July 18, 2011, Huang unlawfully transported a DOE-owned laptop computer and computer-related media in interstate and foreign commerce. Count 8 charged Huang with an embezzlement charge and alleged that between April 25, 2012 and June 2, 2012, Huang embezzled electronic files and documents, including research proposals, belonging to DOE that came into his possession by virtue of his employment with SNL.

During his plea hearing this afternoon, Huang pled guilty to Counts 6 and 7 of the second superseding indictment. In his plea agreement, Huang admitted taking a trip to China in July 2011, for the purpose of attending and making a presentation at a research conference. Huang acknowledged that in seeking and obtaining Sandia’s permission to participate in the conference, he represented that he would not take any DOE-owned equipment with him. Huang also admitted deliberately lying to a counterintelligence office when he made the representation because he intended to take his DOE-owned laptop on the trip.

Huang admitted taking a DOE-owned laptop computer with him when he traveled to China on June 30 and July 1, 2011, even though he knew that he did not have permission to do so. In so doing, Huang unlawfully converted the laptop computer to his own use. According to Huang’s plea agreement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized the DOE-owned laptop from Huang’s baggage when he returned to the United States on July 18, 2011, after Huang admitted that he did not have permission to take the laptop computer out of the country.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Huang will be sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Huang’s sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The case was investigated by the Albuquerque Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathon M. Gerson.

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