Former WVU professor sentenced for claim related to Chinese recruitment program

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A former West Virginia University professor has been sentenced to three months in prison after making a fraudulent claim to the institution related to his participation in a Chinese talent recruitment program.

James Patrick Lewis, 54, was a tenured professor at West Virginia University from 2006 to August 2019. Lewis, who specialized in molecular reactions used in coal conversion technologies, entered a contract with China to participate in its “Global Experts 1000 Talents Plan,” a program aimed at recruiting international experts for Chinese developments.

The Chinese Acadamy of Sciences agreed to employ Lewis for at least three years in exchange for an active research program for academy students. The institution promised Lewis subsidies worth around $800,000 if Lewis worked in China.

According to U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, Lewis submitted a request to West Virginia University to be released from his work duties and be the primary caregiver to an expecting child, which was born in June 2018.

“Rather than caring for his newborn child, Lewis planned to work in China during the fall 2018 semester as a part of his agreement with the ‘1000 Talents Plan,'” Powell’s office said on Thursday.

Lewis spent all but three weeks in China while the child remained in the United States. Lewis also received his full salary from West Virginia University, totaling $20,189.

Lewis resigned from WVU in August 2019. He is responsible for paying a $9,363 fine and restitution to West Virginia University. Lewis will have to report to prison within the next 30 days.

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