A Stanford University researcher faces fraud and obstruction of justice charges for an alleged scheme to hide her status as a member of the Chinese military.
(CN) — A federal grand jury has released a superseding indictment against a researcher from Stanford University with allegations that the researcher attempted to conceal her involvement in the Chinese military while seeking to work in the United States.
Chen Song, a 39-year-old Stanford University researcher, was charged Thursday with visa fraud, obstruction of justice, destruction of documents and making false statements after federal officials claim she carried out a detailed scheme to hide her involvement with the Chinese military when she applied to work in the U.S.
“We allege that while Chen Song worked as a researcher at Stanford University, she was secretly a member of China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army,” United States Attorney David Anderson said in a statement. “When Song feared discovery, she destroyed documents in a failed attempt to conceal her true identity. This prosecution will help to protect elite institutions like Stanford from illicit foreign influences.”
Thursday’s announcement builds upon previous charges leveled against Song last summer when officials first alleged that Song covered up her involvement with the Chinese military, with Thursday’s superseding indictment expanding on how Song carried out her effort to conceal her military connections.
According to officials, Song first entered the country to work in Stanford University in December 2018 using a J-1 non-immigrant visa, a visa type common for international researchers looking to study in the United States.
When Song submitted her application for the visa, she allegedly described herself as a neurologist who wanted to come study brain diseases in the United States. While she did say in the application that she had served in the Chinese military from 2000 to 2011, she claimed that her current employer was Xi Diaoyutai Hospital and listed her highest rank as “Student.”
But law enforcement officials say these statements were all false. Officials allege that Song was still an active member of China’s People’s Liberation Army when she entered the country and say that the hospital she listed as her employer was cover-up for where she really worked — a military air force hospital in Beijing.
The charges against Song also claim that last year, shortly after another Chinese nationalist was similarly charged in California, she scrambled to cover her tracks and delete any evidence that linked her to China’s military.
Officials say she tried to delete an entire folder of data on a hard drive that contained Song’s resume, a picture of Song’s military credentials — complete with an image of her in full military dress — and even a letter addressed to the People’s Republic of China consulate in New York in which she reportedly acknowledged that she lied about her employer on her visa application.
Officials further allege that after Song caught wind of the investigation into her, evidence linking Song to the military air force hospital in Beijing began to disappear from the internet and that Song personally deleted a series of emails that contained information about her military connections.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair said that Thursday’s announcement is further evidence of law enforcement’s ongoing effort to protect America’s universities from hidden Chinese military influence.
“The FBI is committed to protecting academic institutions in the Bay Area from PRC military officers who knowingly and willfully lie about their military affiliations to access American research and development,” Fair said. “We will exhaust all investigative techniques and measures to ensure the safety, security, and hard work of American universities.”
If Song is convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison for the visa fraud charge, 20 years for each of the obstruction charges and up to 5 years for the false statements charge. A trial for Song is currently set to begin this April.
Legal representatives for Song and the prosecutors on the case did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.