Chinese NASA Scientist Being Investigated By FBI After Disappearance

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
Font Size:

A former professor at Ohio State University with access to sensitive Department of Defense information is being investigated by the FBI after the University uncovered ties to China he had previously denied, reports The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday.

Rongxing Li, 56, was the director of OSU’s mapping and geographic information system laboratory. He is renowned in his field after working with NASA to help with their Mars rovers.

In February of 2014 he resigned from Ohio State University, saying he was in China taking care of his sick parents. Only a month before that he had begun working on the NASA imaging work for a 2020 Mars mission, according to search warrants he had access to DOD technical information that he would be prohibited from sharing with Chinese nationals.

It wasn’t until an internal investigation from OSU that it was uncovered Li had lied on his proposal to NASA when he said he had no relations with Chinese scientists.

Researches had already known he spent 2012 on sabbatical in Shanghai at Tongji University, looking deeper into his connections, they found he was listed as a professor at Tongji, and a director of a center for spatial information. They also found evidence online that he had even been a chief scientist on a Chinese-government program to develop advanced technologies.

Ohio State University contacted the FBI due to the, “unusual circumstances of Li’s departure and the restricted and sensitive nature of some of his research.” The FBI was informed Li had access to International Traffic in Arms Regulations information with NASA and with defense contractor Raytheon.

Homeland Security agents stopped and search Li’s wife, Jue Tian, 56, in San Francisco this year before she boarded a March 1 to China. According to a search warrant, they found restricted defense information on thumb drives seized from Tian. They also searched the couple’s home in Upper Arlington, which has been up for sale since mid-June. Tian returned from China, and declined an interview from The Columbus Dispatch.

The FBI has yet to file charges against Li or his wife, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Solove. No comment has been returned to The Daily Caller after reaching out to the Cincinnati FBI office.