Gang Chen, 56, a Chinese-born mechanical engineer and nanotechnologist, was charged by federal prosecutors with defrauding the U.S. Department of Energy when seeking grants, hiding his working relationship with the Chinese government, and failing to disclose a foreign bank account on a tax return. Chen is a naturalized U.S. citizen and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Robert Fisher, the attorney for Chen said that his client “loves the United States and looks forward to vigorously defending these allegations.”

“Since Gang moved to this country over 30 years ago, his life has been the epitome of the American dream. He has dedicated his life to scientific advancement in mechanical engineering,” Fisher said in an email.

Joseph Bonavolonta, the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI office in Boston said at a news conference that, “Our investigation found Chen was working with the Chinese communist government in various capacities dating back to 2012 at our country’s expense.”

“In applying for these scarce federal grants, we alleged Chen failed to disclose that he was acting as an overseas expert on science and technology for the Chinese communist government after China’s consulate office in New York asked him to provide expertise and advice in exchange for financial compensation and awards,” Bonavolonta added.

Bonavolonta stated that Chen defrauded U.S. taxpayers out of at least $19 million. He added that about half of the FBI’s  5,000 active counter-intelligence investigations involve China.

Federal prosecutors said that Chen had received money from several Chinese sources. He had also helped to review and assess grant applications for the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSFC), which operates similarly to U.S. grant-funding agencies.

But Chen never disclosed his work for the NNSFC or other Chinese affiliations when he applied for and was granted millions in Department of Energy grants.