Chinese researcher pleads guilty to theft of trade secrets from hospital

The Trump administration takes seriously its duty to enforce American laws against anyone accused of waging economic war against the country.

Along those lines, a Chinese national working as a researcher at a children’s hospital in Ohio has pleaded guilty to stealing scientific trade secrets from the facility to benefit herself and the Chinese communist regime, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Stealing trade secrets

Specifically, 47-year-old Li Chen pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court on Thursday to multiple federal charges of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. A date for sentencing has yet to be determined.

Chen was arrested in July 2019 along with her husband, Yu Zhou, an alleged co-conspirator who worked in a separate medical research lab at the same facility, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, over much of the same 10-year time span — 2008-2018 for Chen, 2007-2017 for Zhou. His case remains pending at this time.

The Dispatch noted that Chen worked at the hospital as a researcher focused on what are known as exosomes, and was accused of stealing at least five separate trade secrets related to her work there.

The theft of those trade secrets was only the first issue, however, as Chen then started her own company in China — with backing and assistance from the communist regime — that sold exosome “isolation kits” derived from the trade secrets she stole. She was also accused of passing those trade secrets and other research and technological information obtained from her employer to the Chinese government.

“Once again we see the People’s Republic of China (PRC) facilitating the theft of our nation’s ingenuity and hard work as part of their quest to rob, replicate and replace any product they don’t have the ability to develop themselves,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a Justice Department press release.

Penalties to be determined

U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said, “Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute took reasonable measures to protect its cutting-edge intellectual property and trade secrets regarding exosomes, and I commend the cooperation of Nationwide Children’s throughout this investigation.

“Chen betrayed her employer of 10 years by stealing trade secrets from this American institution and transferring them to China after receiving payments from the Chinese government,” he added.

Chris Hoffman, the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Cincinnati field office, noted that Chen had been a “trusted researcher” at the hospital who was “conducting cutting-edge U.S. government-funded research.” Hoffman added, “With her guilty plea, she admits that she abused this trust to establish a company in China for her own financial gain.”

The Justice Department release noted that as part of Chen’s guilty plea, she would be required to forfeit around $1.4 million and 500,000 shares of stock in a company known as Avalon GloboCare Corp. as well as 400 shares of stock in a company called GenExosome Technologies Inc.

It remains unclear at this time how much prison time Chen — not to mention her co-conspirator husband — will ultimately serve or how much they will be required to pay in fines as a result of their international espionage.

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