On December 21, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced the conviction of Dr. Charles Lieber, a Harvard University Professor known to many as a superstar of science, for making false statements and for tax offenses. 

Dr. Lieber, the former chair of Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, was accused of concealing his affiliation with the Chinese Wuhan University of Technology (“WUT”) and his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program. He is also said to have failed to report income he received from WUT. Specifically, he was convicted of two counts of making false statements to federal authorities, two counts of making and subscribing a false income tax return and two counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts with the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). A jury convicted Dr. Lieber after a six-day jury trial. 

Lieber served as the Principal Investigator of the Lieber Research Group at Harvard University, which received more than $15 million in federal research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. This required him to disclose any foreign financial conflicts of interests.  The government presented evidence that Dr. Lieber, unbeknownst to Harvard University, became a “Strategic Scientist” at WUT and, later, a contractual participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan.

Under the terms of Dr. Lieber’s Thousand Talents contract, WUT paid him a salary of up to $50,000 per month, living expenses of up to $150,000 and awarded him more than $1.5 million to establish a research lab at WUT. The jury found that Lieber had lied about his affiliation with the Wuhan University of Technology in China and about the contract he had with a Chinese talent recruitment plan.

U.S. taxpayers are required to report the existence of any foreign bank account that holds more than $10,000 at any time during a given year by filing a Foreign Bank Account Report (“FBAR”) with the IRS. Dr. Lieber failed to file FBARs for years 2014 and 2015.

Dr. Lieber faces a potential of 26 years in prison and up to 1.2 million dollars in fines. Sentencing is generally based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rya Zobel will sentence Dr. Lieber at a later date not yet scheduled. 

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white-collar criminal investigations and tax fraud investigations.  If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.