A federal judge is scheduled on April 22 to sentence a former Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist who has pleaded guilty to lying about his relationship with a Chinese talent recruitment program, according to a hearing notice filed Sunday.
Turab Lookman, formerly of the New Mexico lab’s Theoretical Division, pleaded guilty in January to one count of fraud and making false statements. He had initially pleaded not guilty to three counts of fraud and making false statements to federal investigators after the Justice Department in May alleged the onetime lab employee tried to cover up his connection with China’s Thousand Talents program starting in 2017.
Beijing characterizes Thousand Talents as a means to recruit the world’s top minds for contributions to Chinese research. The Donald Trump administration says the program is just a means for China to steal U.S. intellectual property and secrets by plying American scientists with generous salaries, grants, and other compensation.
Lookman, who spent decades at Los Alamos, faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine as large as $250,000. The Justice Department recommended Chief Judge William Johnson, of U.S. District Court for New Mexico, sentence Lookman to no more than 10 months in prison, but Johnson can still hand down the maximum sentence.
The court scheduled Lookman’s sentencing only days after another high-profile Thousand Talents bust.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced it had charged the head of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department, Charles Lieber, with one count of lying to authorities in 2018 about working for Thousand Talents. Lieber had not entered a plea at deadline Monday for Defense Daily. His wife posted a $1-million bond Thursday, after which Lieber was released from federal custody.