Former VT professor found guilty of conspiring to commit federal grant fraud

ROANOKE, Va. (WJHL) - A former Virginia Tech professor studying artificial sweeteners was found guilty last week of attempting to defraud the United States, says First Assistant United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar.  

According to a statement issued to News Channel 11, Chief Judge Michael F. Urbanski of the West District of Virginia announced last week he found Yiheng Percival Zhang, 47, of Blacksburg, Virginia, guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, three counts of making a false statement and one count of obstruction by falsification.  

The ruling comes after a Sept. 2018 bench trial held in the U.S. District Court in Roanoke.  

According to evidence presented at the trial, Zhang, who at the time of the offense was an engineering professor at Virginia Tech, founded Cell-Free Bionnovations, Inc. (“CFB”), a research firm in Blacksburg.  

Evidence showed CFB relied exclusively on federal grants for research.  

Evidence also shows that in 2015, Zhang caused fraudulent grant proposals.  

Zhang began working as a paid researcher for the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences by, at least, 2014, while he worked at Virginia Tech. 

“Evidence presented at trial indicated grant funds obtained would be used for research Zhang knew had already been done in China. Zhang intended to use the grant funds for other CFB projects rather than for the projects for which the funds were requested. To obstruct the investigation, Zhang submitted falsified timesheets to government investigators,” the attorney’s office said in a statement issued to News Channel 11.  

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