• Zaosong Zheng was arrested in December 2019
  • He pleaded guilty to making fraudulent statements to Federal officers
  • He was sentenced to time served and ordered to leave the United States

A Chinese researcher who tried to smuggle 21 vials of lab samples to his native land in 2019 was deported from the United States on Wednesday after being sentenced to time served.

Zaosong Zheng, 31, was sentenced to time served, which was approximately 87 days, after pleading guilty to one count of making fraudulent statements to Federal officers. U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper also sentenced him to three years of supervised release along with deportation from the United States, a press release said.

Zheng was arrested on Dec. 10, 2019, at Boston's Logan International Airport and was initially charged with smuggling. He was locked up for nearly three months after the arrest. The smuggling charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement he entered last month, reported Associated Press.

The researcher entered the United States in August 2018 on a J-1 visa sponsored by Harvard University to pursue cancer cell research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He conducted his research at the center from September 2018 to December 2019. He was fired from the hospital after the arrest.

Zheng stole the samples from the lab, hid the vials in his luggage and attempted to fly out to China. When asked by the Federal officers at the airport, he initially said that he did not have any biological items from the research with him. The officers then discovered the samples hidden in a sock inside one of his bags.

He later admitted to the investigators that he had stolen the samples from the lab and was planning to take them to China to continue his research in his own laboratory and publish the results under his own name.

Several Chinese researchers are under Federal scrutiny for working on behalf of the Chinese government and stealing work from the United States, according to an Associated Press report. However, Zheng was not charged with conspiring with the Chinese government. He was ordered to be deported on Wednesday and will not be allowed to enter the United States for at least 10 years.

He admitted to the investigators that he stole the samples from the lab and was planning to take it to China to continue the research and publish the results under his name. pixabay

In 2019, the National Institute of Health and Federal Bureau of Investigation launched massive efforts to uproot scientists who they say were stealing biomedical research for other countries from institutions across the United States, reported New York Times. The investigation found that almost all of the incidents they uncovered involved scientists of Chinese descent, including naturalized American citizens allegedly stealing for China.