Chinese researcher stole vials of biological research and attempted to take them aboard a flight to China

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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETS – A Chinese national was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for making false statements in connection with his theft of 19 vials of biological research.

Zaosong Zheng, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper to time served (approximately 87 days), three years of supervised release and ordered removed from the United States. In December 2020, Zheng pleaded guilty to one count of making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements. Zheng was arrested on Dec. 10, 2019, at Boston’s Logan International Airport and charged by criminal complaint.

In August 2018, Zheng entered the United States on a J-1 visa and conducted cancer-cell research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston from Sept. 4, 2018 to Dec. 9, 2019. On Dec. 9, 2019, Zheng stole vials of biological research, hid the vials in his luggage, and attempted to take them out of the United States aboard a flight destined for China. Federal officers at Logan Airport discovered the vials hidden in a sock inside one of Zheng’s bags, and not properly packaged. When asked by federal officers whether he was traveling with any biological items or research, Zheng lied and answered “no.” Zheng later admitted he had stolen the vials from a lab at Beth Israel. Zheng stated that he intended to bring the vials to China to use them to conduct research in his own laboratory and publish the results under his own name.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Michael Denning, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Boston Field Office; and William Higgins, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement, Boston Field Office made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin Tolkoff and Jason Casey of Lelling’s National Security Unit prosecuted the case.


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