A senior NASA scientist who lives in Pacifica has pleaded guilty to participating in a Chinese program that encourages foreign researchers to work with the communist government in exchange for grant money, according to a U.S. Attorney in New York.
Meyya Meyyappan, 66, of Pacifica entered the plea before a federal court judge in Manhattan.
Meyyappan took part in a program called the “Thousand Talents Program,” a Chinese effort to recruit people working with foreign technology and intellectual property. Participants held college teaching positions in China, South Korea or Japan.
Meyyappan concealed his work from NASA and other government officials and subsequently lied about his involvement to NASA and the FBI, according to a press release from Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“Members of U.S. government agencies are strictly prohibited from maintaining undisclosed affiliations with foreign entities, especially those that are actively seeking our intellectual property and technological advances. Meyyappan violated this sacred rule, and then lied to FBI agents about it,” said William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “Actions like those carried about by Meyyappan can have security implications, and his charges should serve as a warning to others thinking about engaging in the same type of activity.”
Meyyappan was charged with one count of making false statements, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, however press reports say sentencing guidelines likely limit any jail time to six months in prison. He is scheduled for sentencing on June 16.
Prosecutors told the news wire that Meyyappan joined NASA in 1996 and since 2006 has been chief scientist for exploration technology the Ames Research Center in Mountain View. His NASA bio says he has authored 320 peer-reviewed scientific articles and presented 200 times at universities around the world.