Student Spies Trade NIH Research to China in Exchange for Tuition

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The three scientists accused worked at New York University's Langone Medical Center conducting research on MRIs.

Three scientists working at New York University's Langone Medical Center are accused of passing research funded by the National Institutes of Health to a rival research institute funded by the Chinese government. For one scientist, his compensation was pre-paid grad school tuition.

NYU hired Yudong Zhu, a 44-year-old "accomplished researcher and innovator" in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, as an associate research professor in the school's radiology department in 2008. Zhu arranged for Xing Yang and Ye Li, both 31-years-old, to move from China to New York to work with him in 2010 after he had just been earned a $4 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct his MRI research for the next five years. They were research engineers, according to the university. Yang came to the U.S. on a student visa.

But according to the the U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Preet Bharara, said in a statement the university was "inviting and paying for foxes in the henhouse." The three men are now being charged with commercial bribery conspiracy.