Former Scientist At Federal Lab Sentenced For Lying About Ties To Chinese Government

A former scientist at a federal lab was sentenced Friday for lying about his ties to a Chinese government recruitment program, a Justice Department statement released Tuesday said.

Turab Lookman, 68, of Santa Fe, New Mexico was sentenced Friday to five years of probation and a $75,000 fine for lying to a counterintelligence officer about being recruited by and applying to participate in China’s Thousand Talents Program for personal compensation. Lookman pleaded guilty to the charge in January, according to the statement.

Lookman falsely denied his involvement with the Chinese government in June 2018, when he was a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which receives taxpayer funding. At a hearing in 2019, federal prosecutors characterized Lookman as a serious national security threat because of his high-level security clearance at the lab, which gave him access to some of the U.S.’s most guarded nuclear secrets, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The top-secret information Lookman was privy to is “the kind of gun he could point at a whole city, a whole country,” federal prosecutor George C. Kraehe said at that hearing according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. “And the United States tries to keep that kind of gun very safe and secure, and that’s why it entrusts possession of that gun to only the very most reliable people there are: people who always tell the truth.”

The Thousand Talents Program is a Chinese-government talent recruitment program that in some cases has resulted in violations of U.S law, including espionage, theft of trade secrets and grant fraud.

Lookman also had a number of bank accounts and possible citizenship in several other countries, which prosecutors said was additional proof that he had no loyalty to the U.S., the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Numerous students, researchers and academics at labs and universities across the country have faced charges related to lying about their ties with the Chinese government, often while accepting US-taxpayer-funded grants. (RELATED: More Than A Dozen Researchers And Professors At US Universities Have Been Arrested For Ties To The Chinese Government)

In late August, a researcher at the University of Virginia, Haizhou Hu, was arrested while trying to board a plane to China with allegedly stolen research was charged with federal crimes, including theft of trade secrets.