Stanford University researcher indicted for being a secret member of China’s military
A Stanford University researcher in neurological studies has been indicted by a federal grand jury for hiding her affiliation as a member of the Chinese military forces while in the United States, the DOJ stated Friday.
The grand jury issued the “superseding indictment” that charged Chen Song with visa fraud, obstruction of justice, destruction of documents, and false statements “in connection with a scheme to conceal and lie about her status as a member of the People’s Republic of China’s military forces while in the United States.”
“We allege that while Chen Song worked as a researcher at Stanford University, she was secretly a member of China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California.
“When Song feared discovery, she destroyed documents in a failed attempt to conceal her true identity,” Anderson stated in a press release. “This prosecution will help to protect elite institutions like Stanford from illicit foreign influences.”
Song, 39, allegedly entered the United States on Dec. 23, 2018. According to the superseding indictment she used a J-1 non-immigrant visa to conduct research at Stanford University. According to FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair, with the FBI’s San Francisco Office, Song took “active steps to destroy evidence of affiliation with the Chinese military.”
He noted that she also took steps to destroy her “current PLA credentials depicting her in military dress uniform.”
She obtained the J-1 visa “for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs” with an application she submitted in November 2018.
Many times, foreign and industrial spies use the student and other non-immigrant work visa’s to enter the United States and steal research and information. China has been prolific in its tendency to steal from U.S. researchers and companies. Moreover, the Chinese communist government has notoriously attempted to infiltrate U.S. intelligence and defense apparatus, according to numerous analysts.
In Song’s visa application, she described herself as a “neurologist who was coming to the United States to conduct research at Stanford University related to brain disease.”
DOJ PRESS RELEASE:
As part of the application, Song stated that she had served in the Chinese military only from Sept. 1, 2000, through June 30, 2011. She further stated that her employer was “Xi Diaoyutai Hospital” located at “No. 30 Fucheng Road, Beijing, 100142,” and that her highest rank was “STUDENT.”
The superseding indictment alleges that these were lies, and that Song was a member of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese military, when she entered and while she was in the United States, and that the hospital she listed on her visa as her employer was a cover for her true employer, the PLA Air Force General Hospital in Beijing.
Assistant Director with the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division Alan E. Kohler Jr., who was directly involved in the investigation, noted in the press release that members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army “cannot lie on their visa applications and come to the United States to study without expecting the FBI and our partners to catch them.”
“Time and again, the Chinese government prioritizes stealing U.S. research and taking advantage of our universities over obeying international norms,” Kohler stated.
Evidence of Song’s Connection to the Chinese Military (DOJ PRESS RELEASE BELOW)
The superseding indictment also adds allegations and charges of obstructive conduct by Song. Specifically, the superseding indictment alleges that Song found out about a case against another PLA member, who was charged on June 7, 2020, in the Northern District of California with visa fraud. The superseding indictment alleges that she then attempted to delete a digital folder of documents on an external hard drive that she possessed containing records relating to her military service and visa fraud, including:
- A digital version of a letter from Song, written in Chinese and addressed to the People’s Republic of China consulate in New York, in which Song explained that her stated employer, “Beijing Xi Diaoyutai Hospital” was a false front, and that because relevant approval documents were classified, she had attempted to mail them;
- An image of Song’s PLA credentials, with a photograph of her in military dress uniform, covering the time period from July 2016 to July 2020; and
- A digital version of a resume for Song, written in Chinese, again with a photograph of her in military dress uniform and listing her employer as the Air Force General Hospital.
Further, according to the superseding indictment, Song lied to FBI agents when interviewed, denying any affiliation with the PLA after 2011, and information associating Song with the PLA or Air Force General Hospital began to disappear from the Internet after the FBI’s investigation of Song was known to her. Finally, the superseding indictment alleges that, after Song had been charged by criminal complaint in this case, she selectively deleted relevant emails from that account, including certain emails relevant to her military service, employment, and affiliations.
Song is charged with visa fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a); obstruction of official proceedings, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2); two counts of alteration, destruction, mutilation, or concealment of records, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(1); and making false statements to a government agency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2).
An indictment merely alleges that a crime has been committed and Song, like all defendants, is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, she faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the visa fraud count; up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of the obstruction and alteration charges; and up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the false statements charge. In addition, the court may order additional terms of supervised release. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Song’s next appearance is scheduled for April 7, 2021, at 12:00 p.m. PST, before the Honorable William Alsup, U.S. District Judge, for pretrial conference, with a trial scheduled to begin on April 12, 2021.
You can follow Sara Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC