Zhengdong Cheng, a Texas A&M professor and NASA researcher, pleaded guilty to charges related to lying about his connections to China. Cheng was arrested and charged with conspiracy, making false statements, and wire fraud in 2020.
According to an FBI’s Twitter post on Sept. 23, Cheng pleaded guilty to lying to Texas A&M University (TAMU) about his affiliations with Chinese entities to violate his agreements with NASA.
A federal judge in Houston accepted a plea deal. As part of the deal, Cheng agreed to pay $86,876 in restitution to NASA and a $20,000 fine. Court documents show Cheng and prosecutors agreed that the 13 months he already spent in jail is “an appropriate sentence in the matter,” the KBTX reported.
The arrest and charge of Cheng was part of the China Initiative effort, led by the National Security Division (NSD) of the U.S. Department of Justice, for countering nation-state threats to the United States.
The department announced the China Initiative in 2018 during the Trump administration to combat Beijing’s relentless security threats by identifying and prosecuting those engaged in trade secret theft, hacking, and economic espionage.