A former employee of the Cleveland Clinic was arrested by the FBI and charged with obtaining a $3.6 million federal grant without disclosing that he had an affiliation with and held the position of Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Technology at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), a university affiliated with the People’s republic of China. He has been charged with false claims and wire fraud.
The feds say Dr. Qing Wang participated in the “Thousand Talents Program”, a program established by the Chinese government to recruit individuals with access to or knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property. In the United States, Dr. Qing Wang is also known as Kenneth Wang.
The National Institute of Health (“NIH”) is our nation’s primary medical research agency, with an annual operating budget of $39 billion. Most of that money – $32 billion – is awarded each year to American universities and research professors via federal grants for medical research.
Dr. Wang was born in the People’s Republic of China. He later moved to the United States and accepted a research position with the Cleveland Clinic in 1997. At the time of his arrest last week Dr. Wang was a professor at the Lerner Research Institute and a Professor of Molecular Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. His areas of interest are Genetics and Cardiovascular disease.
Wang became a United States citizen through naturalization on November 5, 2005.
In the past few years, the NIH has recognized that research funded by the United States is often illegally shared with the People’s Republic of China. As a result, investigators have heightened their interest in vetting the recipients.
To receive a grant, applicants must disclose any foreign ties they may have. Those ties must be approved by the government before any grant monies are released.
By signing the grant application, Wang certified that he had complied with all requirements of the program including the disclosure requirements. The certification says,
“I certify that the statements herein are true, complete, and accurate to the best of my knowledge, and accept the obligation to comply with Public Health Services terms and conditions if a grant is awarded as a result of this application. I am aware that any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or claims may subject me to criminal, civil, or administrative penalties.”
The FBI says that on last four different occasions, Wang had the opportunity and obligation to report his affiliation with the Chinese government funded Huazhong University of Science and Technology. He didn’t.
The Cleveland Clinic conducted its own investigation. They say Wang and other researchers received “extensive training” on reporting obligations and were also obligated to complete a conflicts of interest disclosure form. The clinic’s investigation reached the same conclusions as the NIH’s investigation and found that Dr. Wang failed to disclose his ties to Chinese government.
It wasn’t until March that Wang admitted that his affiliation with HUST. In fact, he admitted recruiting 40 to 50 researchers for the Chinese university. He conducted some of his recruiting sessions in the United States. He recalled hosting events at Harvard Medical School in Boston, University of California at San Francisco, and University of Texas Southwestern.
Wang said the package he offered on behalf of HUST included personal compensation to each recruited person was around $200,000 to $300,00. He also had the ability to offer research funding, access to graduate students, and lab space. This apparently went on for several years between 2014 and 2018.
Chinese Thousand Talents Program
The FBI says the Chinese Talent Plans are programs established by the Chinese government to recruit individuals with access to or knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property. The importance of the Thousand Talent program was memorialized in 2007, when “talent development” was added to the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. The Thousand Talent program requires participants sign contracts obligating them to perform both typical academic, research, or entrepreneurial activities on behalf of Chinese institutions, as well as recruitment activities.
Arrest of Qing Wang
The FBI obtained an arrest warrant on May 12th. He was subsequently arrested without incident and is currently out on personal recognizance bail. As a condition of his bail, Wang had to surrender his passport.
We remind readers that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
False Claims Act Cash Rewards for Reporting Grant Fraud
The Justice Department says that Wang was arrested for false claims and wire fraud. His charges are criminal and could lead to a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.
The federal False Claims Act provides for cash rewards to those with inside information about fraud involving a federal program. There have been several rewards paid to those who have reported federal grant fraud.
Wang wasn’t arrested because he is Chinese. He was arrested for failing to report his ties to the Chinese government. The United States is worried that the Chinese and other foreign actors are stealing our technology and intellectual property. It isn’t fair that our tax dollars support research being stolen by foreign nation states.
In recent weeks, the government claims that China is attempting to steal research on coronavirus vaccines and treatments. We are aware of other grant cases involving China that did not involve coronavirus. Dr, Wang’s case is an example.
In Wang’s case, it doesn’t appear the Cleveland Clinic was involved. The FBI report suggests that the clinic was also investigating Wang and reached the same conclusions as the government. Sometimes, however, universities are complicit in the fraud. We believe that is occurring at the University of Maryland and at other schools.
Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers who report grant fraud are eligible to receive between 15% and 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoers. Triple damages are also available. That means Wang could be asked to pay up to $10.8 million plus interest. (We doubt the Chinese government will pay any penalties on his behalf, that would mean admitting complicity.)
If you have information about grant fraud involving NIH or other federal grant funds, you may be entitled to a cash reward. To learn more, visit our False Claims Act whistleblower reward information page. Ready to see if you qualify for a reward? Contact us online by email or by phone 202-800-9791. [Cases accepted nationwide. We only charge a fee if we are successful in collecting a reward for you. All inquiries protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential.]